Saturday, July 31, 2010

Here there be dragons!

Today was a family trip back to Dorothy Lake, which I last visited in September of last year. Last time I was shooting landscapes, but today I was hunting dragons!

Where there are mosquitos, there are dragonflies, and that's what I ended up shooting on day 181. Here are my favourites of the day, all shot with the 70-200 and 1.4x extender:

Yellow Dragonfly

Red Dragonfly

Red Dragon Spire

The majority of the trip involved splashing around with a four year old in the lake however, so I'm exhausted!

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Kersplash! Pre-and-post...

I didn't have a lot of time to shoot today, but my daughter was splashing in her pool in the back yard when I got home and I took some pictures just for the family. This turned into a good opportunity though, a chance to practice some post-processing and evaluate my technique. Tada! Day 180 post!

First off, here is the shot I kept straight out of camera:

Kersplash - Straight Out of Camera

As you can gather, if this is the best shot that I took, the rest were not very good :) She doesn't like getting water on her face, so her expression was always equally demented in the other shots.

Anyhow, post-processing was:

- Straighten
- Crop
- Fix white balance
- Sharpen
- Curves

Here is the result:


The curves adjustment is from an action set that I liked from DeviantArt, but dialed in to my own preference, and normally toned down to about 30% opacity. It just looks right to me this way.

So, this is the process I go through, more or less, for all my shots. The curves adjustment is not always applied, but this is the natural light set that I prefer for portraits.

Thanks again for reading, your comments are always welcome!

Kersplash! Pre-and-post...

I didn't have a lot of time to shoot today, but my daughter was splashing in her pool in the back yard when I got home and I took some pictures just for the family.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Master of his domain!

Looking for Macros on day 179, and in the backyard I went hunting about the various spiderwebs.

I thought I would find something a little bit bigger, but all my arachnid pals were hiding... except one.

Master of His Domain

This guy is *tiny*, like half the width of my fingernail. Getting a shot in focus was a challenge, because even at f/6.3 the slight breeze would take it in and out of focus. This is the best of about two dozen clicks of the shutter. This was also taken at ISO 400 so there is a bit of noise, the higher ISO was required to bring up the shutter speed due to the aforementioned breeze.

Even though he (she?) was small, he just strikes me as a bad-ass. You can tell he totally owns his little stalk of Catmint.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Blue balls...

Today, another lesson has been learned. The lesson is:

If you liked your last crystal shot, and you bought some geodes at the Museum and thought that they would be interesting to shoot, don't bother. They will look like crap. Geodes are supposed to be hollow and colourful, but no, they will be solid and all white and boring. Damn.

So that explains yesterday's lack of photo.

Today, I decided to work with something similar with coloured glass. While I was shooting around and trying different compositions, I noticed something interesting when one of my flashes didn't fire. I stumbled into a neat effect, and it made today's shot:

Great Balls of Fire

Ah, suggestive post titles that really are only marginally related to the content of the post.

This effect was acheived with a flash laying flush on the paper with the glass balls. The light shining through them gives this cool like refraction pattern, and it reminds me of a natural gas burner. I took a bunch of these shots until I found one that looked just right, like little blue flames. Let's just say that this trick is more consistent at making little blue flames than my furnace is.

This took surprisingly little light, one LP160 at 1/64th power, and the 580EX II bounced off the ceiling for a little bit of fill and to trigger the slave on the LumoPro. That was enough light to shoot at f/9, 1/250th shutter and ISO 100. I suppose having the speedlite two or three inches away really helped as well!

Sunday, July 25, 2010

It's a swing thing!

It's day 177, and I had an idea for a shot, but opportunity gave me a chance to reshoot something from earlier this year.

I did a shot of the kids on the swingset back in april. I was using some different post processing techniques, and I was still shooting with the XSi. When my kids were out back today, it seemed like a good chance to reshoot and see what I could do:

It's a Swing Thing

A few notes that I think made a difference in this shot. The post processing style I'm using now is much gentler to the skin tones, and the composition seems better to me. I've done a better job of framing her face, although I still have a busier background than I would have liked. In this case, you don't have a ton of options, there is going to be part of the swingset in the frame somewhere!

A better shot to my eye, and her expression is as cute as all get out in it. :)

Saturday, July 24, 2010

I'm alive!

I've been busy the last few days, and my camera has been lonely in my backpack. We finally got out today, so this is day 176.

We took the kids to the Manitoba Museum today, and I was planning on taking some shots of the Nonsuch. The lighting in the gallery is really horrible though, bad enough that I'd need a tripod and I didn't have one with me.

Having said that, there are quite a few fun little things to see there, and I found a shot I liked elsewhere:

Big Pharma

There is a gallery that is set up like a city street from the 20s complete with a pharmacy. The cabinets are packed with a variety of these tonics, bottles, pills and other narcotic quackery, which are just wonderful examples of the graphic design of the era. I took a few shot, and just ended up liking this one after a little sharpening.

It's not much, but after the disappointing shots of the ship, I was happy to come away with something I liked.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

I've got a sweet Wrasse!

Well on day 175 I got to cross off another shot from my 'shots to get' list. I managed to get a good shot in my reef aquarium, and it's of my newest and most colourful fish, the Mystery Wrasse:

I've Got a Sweet Wrasse!

As usual, my daughter named him. His name is Mr. Fins. Glub glub.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Crystal Clear

I've been setting up this shot for three weeks, and decided to shoot it tonight. Day 174 is all about crystals!

Crystal Clear

I've been growing these from a kit for about three weeks now. They are horribly delicate so getting them into the lightbox was a challenge. Thank you to my wife and her delicate lady fingers!

These crystals are pretty much pure white, so I gelled up three lights for this, red to the left, blue to the right and green above, all diffused through the lightbox, all firing at 1/8th power. The camera was shooting at ISO 200, f/9, 1/200th shutter.

Not much else to add, not great photography but fun photography! Wheeeee!

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Bored at Church

Today was rather busy as we attended a friends wedding. I brought the 70-200 and 17-55 thinking I might get some nice shots of the ceremony, but the horrid lighting and not-at-all-good seating prevented that.

Fortunately another friends son provided a good shot for today:

Bored at Church

He was two rows back and was just barely holding on by the end of the ceremony. Shot at ISO 400, f/2.8 and 1/15th shutter speed. He was sluggish enough that 1/15th was enough to 'freeze the action' as it was :)

Friday, July 16, 2010


Sorry to go back and reshoot something from yesterday, but that poppy pod was starting to bloom today. I'm not likely to get another chance to shoot this this year, so I had to do it!

To try and change it up a bit, however, I used a sheet of turquoise construction to create a backdrop for it and add some complementary colour to the shot:


I also stopped down the aperture to f/7.1 (I think) to give a little more depth of field. I think it's a much stronger shot than yesterdays as a result!

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Growth in the Garden

I saw a few things in the garden on the way home today, so I went for a wander with my Macro lens to see what I could see for day 171.

Here are two lessons I learned:

1. Wind makes shooting macros of flowers pointlessly hard.
2. No matter how hard you try, the Dragonfly knows you are looking at it, and will fly away if you come within five thousand feet of it.

Having said that I got a few shots I liked, and I'm posting two that are both themed around growth.

First, a Poppy Pod from the front garden. This will likely bloom in the next day or two so you have a limited time to shoot them:

Poppy Pod

Second, the same Blackberry bush from this shot has started to lose it blooms and grow berries. I took a different angle and opened the lens wide to get a shallow DOF shot of the last full bloom and some of the new berries:

Blooms to Berries

Sadly, the bloom blew out in the shot, so the very slight purple tone was lost in the shot. Damn auto-exposure!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Faking it...

So for day 170, I was trying a different technique, where you intentionally use the wrong white balance setting in post-processing.

First the shot, and then the explanation:

Drips and Drops

This is just a macro of a bamboo leaf with water drops, but the key is lighting and processing. The background is lit with two speedlites, with a red gel to camera left and a yellow gel to camera light. A third speedlite is on the camera with the Lumiquest SB3 softbox to light the leaf.

In post processing, you swap the white balance to 'fluorescent' which tones everything blue, and you get the tones you see here. The 'bluing' also makes the leaf and drops pop. I like it!

You could accomplish the same thing just by shooting with a standard white balance and toning the picture manually, but this gives you a sense of experimentation since you don't know exactly how it will turn out. When I started this 365, I *never* would have shot like this, I used to feel like you had to have everything figured out, and it had to look *right* somehow. Now, part of the fun is shooting something and seeing what happens later.

I don't think I have to tell you which style of shooting I'm preferring!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Come here often?

Day 169, and it's a busy night. Another shot idea I had fell through, so I'll have to satisfy myself with a backyard shot:

Come here often?

Since we've stopped feeding larger seed in our feeders, our steady stream of grackles has given way to finches and sparrows galore. Much prettier, quieter, and cleaner birds, so it's a good trade.

I'll try to manage a more interesting shot tomorrow!

Monday, July 12, 2010

Green tea, too!

I had a shot in mind for a few days that I finally got to shoot tonight. Day 168 is a redux on my earlier 'Green Tea' shot.

Here is my new shot:

Green tea, too.

There is trickery in this shot too, but not digital. This is shot upside down, with the stream of 'tea' shooting upward into the cup. The cup pushes the stream out to the edge and that gives you the 'crown' of drops.

This needed a fair bit of light to clear the backdrop and freeze the action so there is a little more blowout in the drops than I would have liked, but the lead section of drops is nice and crisp, so I think the effect worked. This was list with two LP160s on the background (on high and one low) and the 580EX2 on-camera to light the front at about 1/16th power. This lighting allowed me to shoot at f/7.1, ISO 100 and 1/200th shutter.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Boy smash! Grar!

Well, it was a heck of a day. The first birthday party went off largely without a hitch but I'm exhausted. There will be a proper picture tomorrow, but a memory for the family today.

Boy Smash Cake!  Grar!

Boy smash cake! Grar!

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Sit! Stay! Good boy!

I'm super busy with my son's first birthday party preparation, post processing engagement photos, and otherwise dealing with my first week back at work, so consider this a bit of a cheat.

The picture for day 166 was taken on the same day a day 165, but the subject was pretty different, and I just love the picture.

Here is Spike, the dog whose parents are getting married this week:

Sit!  Stay!  Good dog.

What a little ham!

Friday, July 9, 2010

Engagement pics - Round 2!

I'm late posting these, but these shots were all done and processed last night. I was just too bagged to get them posted! Still these qualify for day 165 ;)

The Bride
R&M - Bride Portrait

The Groom
R&M - Groom Portrait

The Ring
R&M - The Ring

She said yes!
R&M - She said yes!

Dancing lessons pay off!
R&M - Dip!

Holding hands
R&M - Hands

All shot on the muslin backgrounds with the 17-55 which I am really finding I use all the time for portraits now. It's plenty sharp, good contrast, and for full-body work it's a good focal length range for indoor use.

I took a variety of shots of them sitting as well, but the muslin really lets me down here. If I blow it out to white, the subject gets massively overexposed. If I expose to subject well, the muslin is gray and wrinkled. I can't clean it up well enough in post to make it look good *and* natural. I may have to bit the bullet, clean a section of the basement out and buy paper or vinyl. Muslin is portable, but for full body shots it's a continual problem.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010


Today's picture did not go well. I was trying a technique from a site, and it just didn't work. The best picture I managed on day 164 was a heavily cleaned up shot that I took to preset my manual focus for the actual shot.

Dark Water

Oh dear. Quite a letdown after yesterday's shot that I quite liked. Win some, lose some.

I have round two of engagement photos with the same couple tomorrow, so I'll take an off day today if it means I can be on my game tomorrow. I'm really preferring to shoot portrait right now anyhow, so I'm happy about it!

Monday, July 5, 2010

Stand out!

Day 163 and I was screwing around with glass and lights again. Being back home I could mess with all my toys again, so I had a bit of fun browsing around Flickr for inspiration. One shot that I really liked was this one which is just wine glasses and lighting.

The clever perspective really appealed to me, but I wanted a little more interest beyond the lighting. As such, I messed around with the elements of the shot and changed up the lighting.

Here is my shot for today:

Stand Out

There are a couple of keys to this shot, the biggest being a small aperture and a wide angle. This was shot at 17mm at the minimum possible distance so the focus was crisp across the whole shot and the perspective was exaggerated. I also let the background drape and throw shadow a bit since pure white tended to lose the details. I both like the hint of gray, but I admit that in some ways I dislike it since it comes across a bit 'dirty'. Perhaps shooting on just gray would have been a bit better. The raspberry was just for a hit of colour and interest, which I think the shot needed.

Lighting was an LP120 above at half power using the SB3 softbox, and an LP160 on either side at 1/8th power shooting through the sides of the lightbox. ISO 100, 1/250th shutter at f/16.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Engagement pics, rounds one!

Today I did the first round of my pictures for my friends who are getting married in two weeks. They are looking for photos to display and project at the reception, so I guess these would be considered engagement photos.

I'll be doing another series with studio lighting on Thursday night, so I get two days of my project 365 out of the deal :)

Our first stop was St. Vital park:

R&M - Bench by the lake

R&M - Park walkway

R&M - In the park

R&M - Park bench

R&M - By the lake

I liked this set quite a bit. Lots of shade to shoot in, lovely backgrounds and a variety of benches, stones and the like to use as props.

After we arrived home, we wondered over to the local community club and hit the playground. These shots were much more challenging with no shade to speak of, and much more urban backgrounds, but we were just having fun here. I did a fair bit of low perspective and wide angle here:

R&M - Playground slide

R&M - Hard drivin'

I'm currently waiting to hear how they like them!

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Chirpy chirp chirp...

Yay! I finally got my Goldfinch picture!

Male Goldfinch

What gorgeous little birds these guys are. We have a few males and at least one female (that I was unable to get a picture of) hanging out around our feeder.

Not much else to add, I was just very happy to finally get this little guy in frame today!

Friday, July 2, 2010

Is it a bird? Is it a plane? NO!

On day 160, I was enjoying the realization that I still don't have to go to work for three more days, but the running around and errands seem endless after a vacation.

So, I needed a quick shot but I specifically wanted to do something experimental. I've been thinking about using supplemental flash in daylight shots and this seemed like a nice day for it with blue skies and white clouds.

By the time I got my idea together, and my subjects ready and willing, a little gray had entered the white clouds, but I still like the shot:

Super Baby

It's Super Baby! I think every kid on the planet likes this game... This was shot in the shade at 1/125th, f/16 (sunny 16!) and ISO 100. The shot is done in shade, with the 580EX II on-camera at 1/2 power, using the LumiQuest SBIII softbox. The effect is what I was hoping for, with a properly exposed foreground and the sky a nice shade of blue with definition in the clouds.

What more can I say about this? I had an idea, and it worked the first try! The shot itself could use a little more artistic flair, but getting the technical elements right is a challenge and a thrill in itself.

I have some portrait time scheduled with friends who are getting married soon, and this is valuable experience for that shoot.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

The Waiting Game...

Day 159 of Project 365.

Why is it that when you come back from vacation you have so much to do that you need another vacation? As you might gather, this is my excuse for not having a great picture today :)

Anyhow, there is a male Goldfinch frequenting our backyard feeder, but he is incredibly skittish so the few shots I managed are distant and otherwise craptacular. While I sat waiting for him to return, I realized that there was something else I was waiting for:

The Waiting Game

The blackberry bushes in the backyard are in full bloom. Soon, my sweet little berries, soon...

Also, I know that I shouldn't be craving any equipment at the moment, but I'm in love with these!