Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Back to work...

Well, my vacation is over, and it's back to the project 365. By my reckoning this is day 158, I didn't count any of the days on my vacation since I was largely just shooting for myself.

This morning I went out to shoot flowers in the garden, early enough to get the dew on the petals. The flower beds grew in nicely while we were away so it seemed like a natural thing to spend some time on.

Much to my delight, what I actually found was a drowsy little fly on a leaf who was seemingly not afraid of my lens. I had my Macro lens on started shooting. He moved around a bit, but I was able to get a couple of shots in focus and decently composed.

Here is my favourite of the day:

Help Meeee!

The settings on this shot were f/6.3 at 1/100th shutter. I had to go to ISO 200 to get the exposure bright enough with the decent shutter speed and reasonable DOF. Even so, I would have liked to get this shot at f/11 or so, but I didn't have enough time to fiddle with the settings before the fly finally flew away.

All in all, I can still be happy with this shot. I haven't had many macro opportunities lately so it's nice to do something different for a change.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Miscellaneous vacation shots...

Well, I'm back home but I'm not quite ready to take up the mantle of the 365 again tonight. Unpacking, laundry, settling the kids... Well, my night is pretty full.

Anyhow, I have a few more miscellaneous shots from the vacation to share, and just to get back in the rhythm one of them is a backyard songbird!

We visited a hobby farm called Puck's Farm which I remember visiting from my childhood. The place seems a bit more rundown than I recall as a kid, but that may just be the haze of childhood nostalgia at work.

Here are two landscape/animal shots I took that day:

Pucks Farm Goat

Pucks Farm

I took one family shot there as well. My mother and daughter were sharing a quiet moment in an old building on the back side of the property, and I wanted to shoot it as a silhouette. It worked out fairly well, but the foreground was still fairly strongly lit:

Pucks Farm - Sabrina and Gramma Silhouette

When I was shooting the backyard portraits, the kids were also quite enthusiastically enjoying the swingset, and I took a few shots from the deck at the long end of the 70-200, and I liked this little gem:

Lindsay Swinging

Finally, as promised, a backyard bird. My parents are also bird lovers, and they are lucky enough to have some wonderful specimens visit their house regularly. On this trip, a male Cardinal was visiting quite regularly, but he never got particularly close. This was the best shot I managed with the 70-200 and the 1.4x TC:

Backyard Cardinal

Thanks again for reading!

Monday, June 28, 2010

Portrait Day

Well, shooting the grandkids' portraits went pretty well all in all. There was a certain amount of time that was spent herding them, and trying to get them all to look in the same direction at the same time, but the results are good overall.

The rental studio was set up with four AB400s which were very nice to work with, two softboxes for the key and fill lights, and straight reflectors for the background lights.

Here are the best of the shots taken today, all taken within 40 minutes or so. We got in and out way faster than I expected:

The Grandkids

The Girls

This has a guest appearance by Po, the stuffed Hippo:
Sisters and Po



Another guest star, Javelin the stuffed cat:
Audrey and Javelin

Mid-air shot!
Lindsay Jumping

Mid-air, part two!
Audrey Jumping

Any comments are welcome!

Friday, June 25, 2010


Just popping in to post some favourites from a few trips in the last few days. We visited Reptilia and the Toronto Zoo as well.

Everything here is shot with the 70-200...

Nile Crocodile
Reptilia - Nile Crocodile

Black Mamba
Reptilia - Black Mamba

Monitor (forgot to note the specific species)
Reptilia - Monitor

Plumed Basilisk
Reptilia - Plumed Basilisk

Blue Poison Dart Frog
Reptilia - Blue Poison Dart Frog

Reptilia - Cayman

White Rhino
Toronto Zoo - White Rhino

Hippo Yawning
Toronto Zoo - Hippo Yawn

Sumatran Tiger
Toronto Zoo - Sumatran Tiger

Butterfly and Blooms
Toronto Zoo - Butterfly and Flowers

Toronto Zoo - Alpaca

I'll be back home in a few more days, but I have the portrait shoot with my kids and nieces scheduled for Monday. I'll be packing that night, but I'll try and get shots posted.


Sunday, June 20, 2010

Sunlight portraits...

So, today was one of my first chances to really take any pictures. I've been shooting snapshots, but nothing really worth sharing at this point.

However, in my sisters back yard I managed to corral all of the kids for a minute or two and got them to sit down for a couple of natural light portaits.

My son and daughter are the first two shots, my nieces the latter two. All shot with the 70-200 at f/4, ISO 100:

Sabrina - Sunlight Portrait

Marcus - Sunlight Portrait

Audrey - Sunlight Portrait

Lindsay - Sunlight Portrait

I'm pretty happy with all of these, although the focus on my son is a bit soft. Tomorrow we are heading to the Royal Ontario Museum so there should be photo opportunities galore!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Vacation time...

Hello my beloved and faithful readers! (Both of you!)

For the next two weeks or so, my family and I will be visiting my parents out of province so there will be a bit of a slowdown in posting. Tonight is picture-free, and tomorrow likely as well as the whirlwind of packing and travelling will devour all of my free time like a pack of locusts.

All is not lost though, my parents live in a nicely forested area so bird and animal shooting is likely to be good, and there will be trips to the Metro Toronto Zoo, the Royal Ontario Museum, and some other photo-friendly places. So, while I will be inconsistent in posting, I won't go completely silent.

It should be a nice trip and I'll be dragging most of my kit with me, minus my backgrounds and most of the lighting gear. I've booked a studio for a day of shooting with my nieces as well, so I'll have a day with studio lighting as well.

Cheers for now!

Monday, June 14, 2010

Backyard Bubbles

I hope you aren't all sick of pics of my kids. The more practice I can manage with portraits, the better. Besides, my kids are cute!

We picked up this 'Bubble Typhoon' device on the weekend and set it up in the backyard today. Of course, Daddy was right behind with his camera.

Here are the shots from today:

Backyard Bubbles #2

Backyard Bubbles #1

Both shot with the 17-55 f/2.8 IS USM which I'm finding a very helpful kid-shooting lens. The autofocus is damn quick, the fixed aperture is just incredibly helpful for sorting out exposure, and for full body shots the zoom range really is ideal. Combined with the much better AF on the 7D and all my shots were crisply in focus. These were shot at ISO 100, f/4 in aperture priority.

I've really come to like this post processing style as well. It's almost become a go-to for me for strongly lit portraits. I'll need to branch out, but it's also important to develop a style to show your clients. I think this one works for me.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Oak Hammock Marsh

We spent day 156 at Oak Hammock Marsh which is another wildlife area about twenty minutes north of Winnipeg. I'm enjoying shooting birds, what can I say!

Now, the problem is that I'm not very good at it. Trying to get 320mm of focal length to bear on a bird that is whipping across your entire field of vision in under two seconds is really, really challenging both for the photographer and his or her autofocus system. So I may not have a bunch of great wildlife shots today, but I had a great time.

Here are the shots I kept today, starting with two shots of the ubiquitous Redwinged Blackbird:
Redwinged Blackbird in the Wind

Redwinged Blackbird in the Wind - #2

Female Yellow-Headed Blackbird:
Female Yellow Headed Blackbird

Semipalmated Plover in flight:
Semipalmated Plover

My favourite bird shot of the day, a Barn Swallow:
Barn Swallow

Some other interesting shots:
Highway to the Danger Zone

Monarch Butterfly

A landscape shot deep in the bullrushes:
Bullrush Landscape

And the necessary shots of my daughter in her element, first with a pile of twigs and looking for some water in which to toss them:
Down on the Boardwalk

In this picture, I can't help but think that she's saying, "I WILL CRUSH YOU":
I Must Crush You!

A fun day!

Friday, June 11, 2010

Lose a flower, gain a picture!

Day 155 of my Project 365. Friday. At long last.

When I got home, I discovered a nice bouquet of flowers on the kitchen table. Flowers that used to be growing in the backyard. How nice of my daughter to harvest them for us.

Oh well, got a picture out of it at least!

Purple Aster

This is a Purple Aster, and fortunately there are several blooms left in the backyard. This wasn't the original pose that I had in mind, but she wouldn't sit still so a bunch of random shooting finally turned up one that was a keeper. I'm trying not to abuse the white background, so this was shot against the pink wall in her bedroom. Still bright, but there is a complementary tone to it.

This was shot with a key light to camera right, fired through a LumiQuest Softbox III which I have been waiting for on backorder for a little while now. It's small, but better than a bare flash and a bit more controllable as far as light spill than an umbrella. It's designed to be small enough to be used on-camera, and it fits nicely on the 580 on the 7D.

Fill light was from an LP160 to camera left, with a shoot through umbrella. ISO 100, 1/250th shutter at f/3.2. Both lights were firing at 1/8th power.

Thursday, June 10, 2010





(Guess who dictated tonight's photo subject?)

So, a chance to take a pretty simple shot and play with it. In this case, I wanted to throw a shadow given the interesting shapes of the rib cage, spine and tail. Initial attempts threw were pretty weak looking, so I brought the light quite high camera right and fully zoomed, although not snooted. This threw a sharper shadow that I was able to keep in the frame, but the shadows also obliterated detail on the 'skeleton'. The solution is another speedlight just to camera left, handheld in this case for convenience.

In post processing I just had to remove one crease in the gray backdrop, and then I muddied the colour down and hiked the contrast a bit. Just a bit of fun with a simple shot.

Blogger also finally has some templates that will support a 500 pixel wide main column, so I switched to this one. I tend to like the darker background and it makes the post tags and comments a little more visible.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Mummy Luv!

Back to the portraits! I am travelling to Ontario to visit my family, and I've booked a small studio for a day while I am there so that I can shoot my nieces, so I'll try and get as many shots in as I can right now. Day 153 was a portrait day.

I was using my son as my subject today, and since he started crawling getting him to settle down is a chore. My wife sat nearby to help but all that did was make him stare and smile at here. This isn't the shot I planned, but it's a shot I love:

Mummy Luv!

Same post processing technique as I used for the twig splashing shots from a few weeks ago. I like the effect, and it can be subtle while still being interesting. I'm not 100% set on it, but I do like it.

This was shot with a white muslin background, the 580EX II camera left, and an LP160 camera right, both with shoot-through umbrellas at just a bit above his head height. ISO 100, 1/200th shutter at f/3.2 on the 17-55mm at 55mm. A good setup for headshots with only minimal cleanup needed in post processing. I managed this shot, including setup of the lights, in under ten minutes.

I'm getting there, I hope.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Equipment review!

Well my final pieces of kit arrived today, two new LumoPro LP160 manual flashes. I've been waiting for the LP120s to come back in stock, so when they announced the new model it was a happy surprise.

So, here are two simple 'product shots' for day 152 and a 'first impressions' review of the new flashes.

Lumopro Family - Front

The first thing you notice with the LP160s (on the right) is the size of the flash head. Although the unit is overall about the same height, the flash head is quite a bit wider. It's not large enough that it would be a concern, it is still very portable. The new head also rotates through 180 degrees one way and about 135 degrees the other. This gives you the advantage of making the optical slave orientation independent of the flash head. The LP120 does not rotate at all, so this is a major advantage.

Additionally, the mode switch on the front of the LP120 has been relocated to the back on the LP160, and there is an LED ready indicator on the front instead. It's quite a handy addition, and one that I am already finding useful.

Lumopro Family - Back

The differences on the back of the units are far more interesting. Gone are the two selection switches for power, and in it's place are two LED scales for power and zoom along with a button for each and the relocated mode switch.

The LP160 uses a motorized seven-position zoom, which replaces the manual four-position head on the LP120. Similarly, the LP120 was only capable of six power settings, where the LP160 allows you to select from seven. The addition of the 1/64th power mode is very welcome considering that the LP160 offers twice the power of the LP120.

Also new is the Si mode option, which is designed to ignore pre-flashes when using TTL metering. Since I always fire my flashes with manual settings I haven't tested this, but reviews I have read say that it works as advertised.

The last thing that I wanted to test was the recycle rate. With freshly charged Eneloops, full power recharges were achieved in three seconds as advertised. The LP120s were much closer to six seconds, so this is another great improvement.

Build quality is similar to the LP120 with a construction of fairly lightweight plastics. I've tossed my 120s in my bag without concern before, but I wouldn't consider them rugged, and weather sealing is non-existent. Don't abuse them and they should last. LumoPro also now includes a clip-on wide angle adapter and flash foot in the box with the LP160.

So to sum up, the LP160 is more powerful, versatile, quicker to recharge, and includes some handy accessories for the grand total of $30USD more than the LP120. It's a fantastic little piece of kit for a ridiculously good price. I've added two to my kit to use as fill and hair lights, and my LP120 will be relegated to background light duty from here on out.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Followed by critters...

You'd figure that I would have enough animal pictures after yesterdays zoo visit, but I found this little guy in a field near my office today, so he became my day 151 photo.

Ground Squirrel

I think he is a ground squirrel, but he might be a juvenile prairie dog as well. Either way he wasn't all that scared of people and he let me get very close. This shot is reduced in size, but not really cropped, he pretty much filled the frame.

We're going to the zoo, zoo, zoo...

Day 150 of Project 365 and we sprung a surprise zoo trip on my little girl. She was, as you might imagine, elated. So was Daddy.

All the shots below were taken with the 7D, 70-200 f/2.8L IS USM and many of them with the 1.4x extender. I won't bother recapping the exposure settings on each shot but you can assume that everything was shot wide open: f/2.8 without the extender and f/4 with it. Some of the lower light or indoor shots I would bump the ISO to 200 or 400, but all the sunny shots are ISO 100.

I kept an even dozen of my best shots, and my favourite three are at the end. Enjoy!

Pileated Woodpecker
Pileated (?) Woodpecker

Peacock Plumage
Peacock Plumage

Snowy Owl

Amur Leopard
Amur Leopard

Kangaroo Family
Checking on the Joeys

Stellar Sea Eagle in Flight - I hate the chainlink background, but what can you do?
Stellar Sea Eagle in Flight

English Sparrow
English Sparrow

Stalking Vulture
Stalking Vulture

Mallard in Green Water
Mallard in Green Water

And now my favourite three shots of the day:

Growling Mountain Lion
Growling Mountain Lion

Flamingo at Rest
Flamingo at Rest

Lift-Off - Incredibly lucky timing on this one

When you compare this with visit to the zoo last fall, I think you can see a difference in my subject selection, composition, and post processing abilities. That's roughly 8 or 9 months of learning. In three weeks or so I'll be visiting family in Ontario and we will be visiting the Metro Toronto Zoo which will provide a greater variety of opportunities to shoot, but I'm happy with this warm-up visit to our little zoo here in Winnipeg.