Sunday, February 28, 2010

My models at home.

After yesterdays shoot, today I was looking forward to something a little less stressful to shoot. The good news is my family was more than willing to fill in as my models today.

I wanted to do something a little more candid, so I just made sure that my camera was handy all day today, and waited for the right moment. My son has just learned to 'give kisses' which actually involves him gumming the hell out of your face, but it's cute. At a quiet moment with my wife, he decided it was a good time to give kisses.

Baby Kisses

I'm loving that 50mm. And my wife. And the kids are okay too, I guess.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

At least some of us were professionals.

Day 58 of Project 365. The model shoot.

There were over 20 students at the seminar today, so time with the models were limited. Two of the three models, five minutes each. It sounds like very little, but really, I don't know *how to pose someone* and that becomes very obvious when you are sitting across from a 6' tall beauty who is waiting for you to give her direction. 5 minutes felt like a half hour. I made a rule of sticking with my new EF 50mm f/1.4 USM, both the learn the lens a bit better, and to make me pay attention to my composition and re-compose with my feet.

Each of the models was in one of three lighting environments, and I chose to work with one model in natural light, and another in a four-light setup (primary, fill, hair and background) against a black paper background.

Here are the shots I took in the latter setup. The model, Ocean, is managed by Swish Model Management in Winnipeg.

This first shot wasn't exactly as planned. I asked her to cross her arms, turn three-quarters to the camera, pop out her hips and cock an eyebrow. I was looking for a mischievous look, but she raised her left eyebrow and it's lost in her hairline. As such this looks slightly business-like:


For her second shot, I had her seated, leaning towards the camera slightly, with a hint of grin. I wanted to shoot her slightly from above to catch the white of her eye below the iris. I managed to get that, but the effect on the front of her shirt is not particularly flattering:

Ocean - Leaning in

My favorite shot with Ocean started with a desire to shoot something similar to 'Girl with a Pearl Earring', seated facing away, looking back over her shoulder, but with solid eye contact, and with her lips just parted. I like the catchlights in this shot particularly:

Ocean - Over her shoulder

My second model, also from Swish, was Mache. Mache was a classic eastern european beauty and almost impossibly tall. While I worked on tighter shots with Ocean, I only did one tight shot with Mache, similar to the last shot with Ocean in composition, but with a much tighter DOF and much stronger light:

Mache - Over her shoulder

Mache's eyes were an amazing focal point, but I wanted to work on some full body shots as well. This was challenging with a 50mm lens on a crop body in tight areas. We had a couch to use in the natural light area, so I took advantage of that. I like this shot well enough, but I think with the similar colour of her shirt and the couch caused her to blend into the background a little too much:


My final shot of the day, and my favourite, is taken in the same area, but recomposed with a stronger backlight from the main window. Mache was, as I mentioned, quite tall, and I wanted to exaggerate her arms and legs in my final shot. I had her kick her feet out, cross her arms and lean forward on the her elbows. She chose to look out of frame and I think it works well. This is, to my eye, my best shot of the day:

Mache - All crossed up

Day 58 of my Project 365 was pretty much awesome.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Preparing for tomorrow...

Today is day 57 of my Project 365, but tomorrow is what I am excited about. One of our local pros, Dan Harper is holding a portrait lighting seminar tomorrow, and I've signed up as a shooter for the event. Four hours, three models, and a studio full of pro lighting equipment. I can't wait!

Needless to say, today was spent preparing. Charging batteries, clearing off my memory card (I should really get a spare), looking at some example shots, and of course SPENDING MONEY.

New Toy Joy

I paid a visit to the local camera shop, and came home with an EF 50mm f/1.4 USM. It followed me home like a lost puppy, or at least that's what I told my wife. I'm not sure if she bought it.

Anyhow, I do plan on upgrading my body if the business does fairly well, but this lens was in the plans no matter if I go with the 7D or 5DMkII. It will help me now as well, so I picked it up to have on hand tomorrow.

Tomorrow's shots should be portraits from the shoot!

Thursday, February 25, 2010

The crime rate around here is nuts...

Hello friends, and welcome to day 56 of my Project 365.

I was feeling a bit goofy today, so I decided to try doing something like my Exhibitionst candy shot here, so I decided to once again dive into the seedy side of the life of your average nut:

The crime rate around here is nuts!

Thank goodness that they have CCTVs there, maybe the cops can catch the guy who did it.

You can click through to the Flickr link for a larger view, but the full size images is big, 4096 by something, and 9MB. You've been warned.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

February Essentials...

Day 55 of Project 365 and we are talking about late winter essentials.

What could I be referring to? Toques? Mittens? Scarves? Oh no, my friends, we are talking liquor and pain killers.

February Essentials

My T4 arrived today, which is the equivalent of the W-2 for any American readers, and that means tax time.

I wanted to do something different in the lightbox today since I think everyone is probably sick of seeing shots with blown out white backgrounds. Since I wanted to shoot curved glass, I thought I would play with my highlights instead of worrying about minimizing them. I had read some Strobist articles about specular highlights, and I wanted to try my hand at them. The basic rules as I understand them are a reflective surface paired with a comparatively large source of light, well-diffused. You want a large surface reflection which trails fades over a large section of the reflection.

I focused on the shoulders of the whiskey bottle (not my normal brand, but one I had on hand) and I think the result is okay, but it could use work. I achieved this by moving the flashes further away than usual from the sides of the lightbox, cranking down the power and angling them towards the top of the box through the sides. This should diffuse and then reflect the light.

I like the effect and I think I will play with it some more. Having said that, I really, really can't wait for the weather to improve so I can get out more.

I have another family/children shoot scheduled for March 6th as well, this time I am just going to roll with the kit lens and the 60mm Macro. Not ideal gear, but I had results with my kids that I thought were at least decent, and this client agreed. This will be another no-charge shoot with just charges for prints, but it will help build my portfolio.

Oh, also, there's this:

And this:

Like them? Pardon the crappy aliasing, these were just quickly downsized from the original PNGs. A friend is doing a site and design for me in exchange for some photos of his soccer team in the spring. Also I guess you all know my full name now.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Sick of ice yet?

For day 54, one more ice cube shot. Last one I promise, at least for a while.

The reason is that I wanted a different treatment of a similar subject. Last time, I was blowing out highlights, and getting tightly cropped, so this time I went low-key and gave it some space in the frame:

Cold as Ice

Shot on black fleece which does a really nice job of killing any reflection, and it only needed very, very minimal cleanup of light spill. Basically, twenty pixels or so of gray right haloing the base of the glass, the rest of it is clipped. This was accomplished with the 580EX II off-camera, shooting down from above, and snooted with a Honl flexible snoot/bounce card.

The shot might have been better with a second point of focus, because otherwise there is just a lot of black, but so be it. It looks like I expected, good or bad.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Secret of the Ooze

Day 53 of my Project 365 rolls around, and I am sitting on a big pile of green, red and blue ice cubes. I can't help play around with them.

I wanted to see what they would look light heavily backlit, so I rigged up a clear plastic berry dish on some of my daughter's Megabloks (high tech all the way here) and used that to place my 580EX II underneath, triggered with my Pocket Wizards. Killed the lights, set up a black screen around it to keep out any ambient, and shot from above:

Secret of the Ooze

ISO 100, f/10, 1/60th shutter. I can't help it. Every time I see this, I think of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movies. I have some other ideas for these cubes, so hope you don't mind a new shot with them every now and then. They are fun to play with.

On a more serious note, I am very, very close to registering a small business and trying my hand at some simple part-time portraiture work. Some of the people I have done shots for are prepared to give me referrals and it would help to finance some new equipment if I could write off purchases against that income. It's not an unreasonable idea... I hope.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

It's not just for icing...

Day 52 and I did another reshoot of a concept I had earlier. I like doing this since it helps me see where I've improved both technically and artistically.

Today I tried a reshoot of the idea I had in this shot.

Here is the result today:

Not Just For Icing

I would say that this is an improvement :)

The only thing I couldn't quite nail is the slight shadow band across the middle, which as far as I an tell is caused by the acrylic box that this was shot in. I thought I had enough light on my background, but perhaps not.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

The other one....

Hardly fair to take pictures of just one of my kids, so here is 51b, my little girl who is no longer so little.

Portrait of a Young Lady

Same setup as the other shot, this one I cropped as more of a headshot. Cutouts areoud the hair with thankfully not really needed, and yes, her hair *is* always that crazy looking.

Portrait of a Dude...

Sorry another quick post on day 51.

In between grocery shopping and trip to Toys r' Us, I set up my background on the back of the loveseat, pulled out one flash and an umbrella, and my optical slave light and shot some pictures of my son. He is sitting up now, and he wasn't at his six month portraits, so I wanted a shot of it.

Portrait of a Dude

I have a problem with my lighting setup throwing a shadow in front of my subject, so this was an exercise in masking and cutouts. If you look below his legs, you can see it, moreso on the bigger sizes. All in all, I think it's okay, but I really have nothing to compare it with.

Opinions, critique and comments are always welcome!

Friday, February 19, 2010

A Splash of Colour

Day 50, and this has to be a quick post before I make dinner.

I finally found a flat-sided acrylic container to do more water shots with, and I had the idea to freeze some ice cubes with food colouring in them.

Add the two together, and this is the result:

Splash of Colour

f/25, ISO 100, 1/200th shutter. 580EX II on-camera at 1/2 power. I should have tried to lower the flash power and blow out the background more with a larger aperture, but I wanted to really freeze the action. Freeze. Ice. *snicker*

Really like this shot though. One of my best I think.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Zombies lurk here...

Day 49 dawned without a dawn. That is to say, I noticed that it was quite dark as I wandered out to the car this morning. A very heavy mist had rolled in, and visibility was limited to about two hundred feet or so. In the middle of the winter, this was a bit unexpected.

So, apologies to my carpool for running late today, but I got my project shot early!

Zombies Lurk Here

ISO 100, .8 second shutter, f/8 at 55mm focal length on the kit lens.

Now, IS or no IS, a .8 second exposure is tough to handhold, but I wasn't going to run in for my tripod. In some instances, a little blur is not a bad thing, and I think this is one of those instances.

I really debating posting this shot at all, because in some way I think I've had 'sharpness' drilled into my head as a standard for a 'good picture'. Anything with a slightly missed focus, movement blur, handshake or whatever has been summarily discarded unless it was intended. I actually managed a shot of this scene with a better focus and less blur, but this is the one I came back to, this is the one I like, this is the one that feels claustrophobic, hurried, and lost.

This is the one that the zombies lurk in.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Brick and Iron

Day 48 and the furnace is still running. So sorry, but no new furnace parts to photograph today.

Got a chance for a bit of a walk-around today, and I went back to a spot that I noticed a few days before. I would have shot it then, but I left my SD card at home that day.

So, this is a shot where I was trying to capture some interesting lines and a few spots of colour. Not sure how I did, but here it is:

Brick and Iron

These stairs are the rear fire escape of the old Odeon Theatre in downtown Winnipeg. The entire structure is cobwebbed with these, and I'm pretty sure if there was a fire, you'd die just trying to figure how the hell to get off the fire escapes. This crop was selected to highlight the rusted red doors, otherwise there just wouldn't be any tone at all.

I'm on the fence about this shot. I like the subject, but I'm not sure what more I could do to make it pop more.

ISO 100, f/8, 1/50th shutter. Shot with the kit lens at 55mm.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Forgive my wallowing...

For day 47, a sequel to yesterday's photographic tour de force:

Eight Hundred and Twelve Dollars

I call this piece: Eight Hundred and Twelve Dollars.

On the plus side I now have heat. Back to actually attempting some form of art tomorrow, I promise.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Every picture should tell a story!

Day 46 of Project 365 and it was one of those days where the subject was easy to select.

I have read in many places that every picture should tell a story, and here is my story for today:

The scene is: Last night, midnight. My wife has just put the dude back to bed after a snack. He seemed a bit chilly when she picked him up, so we check the thermostat. It's two degrees below the set temperature. Fiddling with the furnace and breakers only manages to get it to run for a half hour or so before it cuts out again, but the house stays warm enough that we wait until today.

Today is, of course, a provincial holiday with all of the associated on-call rate increases. Guy from the furnace place comes out, spends two hours, finds this:

Six Hundred Dollars

I title this picture: Six hundred dollars.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

I cheat at Srabble...

Day 45, and I wanted a playful shot of some sort, so I grabbed a small mirror.

Needless to say shots one through three hundred all failed to look remotely decent, but inspiration struck finally.

Smoke and Mirrors

I really, really need to work on my post processing. The cutout around the 'O' worked okay, but there was a big colour difference between the 'R' and 'M' tiles. I did what I could, but I will keep working on it.

Two exposures (obviously!) at f/5.6, ISO 400, 1/30th shutter and the 580EX II reflecting from the ceiling, on tripod with a cabled shutter release. Post-processing in GIMP.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Je t'aime...

Let's keep with the loooove theme for Day 44.

You want to know what I love? My heating pad. No, really, I love it. I have a minor case of spinal stenosis so I have the wonderful ability to routinely pinch a nerve in my spine. It's pretty much completely debilitating for about two or three days when it goes, and it goes out a couple of times a year. That is why I love my heating pad.

Its Getting Hot in Here

The fact that it was within reach and I can barely walk may have also affected tonight's shot selection. Final exposure was f/3.5, 1/80th shutter, ISO 100 with the 580EX II on-camera, bounced of the ceiling with the Omnibounce attached, manually set at 1/8th power.

I could have done a lot more with this shot, but you'll have to allow me a bit of leeway this evening. Now to down a couple of back pills...

Friday, February 12, 2010

Reluctant Gecko

Day 42 of my project 365 once again involved rushing around looking for a picture to post. Fridays are awful for that.

My brain says, "Take another gecko picture!"

"No brain," I say, "I can't post, like, the third gecko picture in 42 days!"

My brain, however, is a forceful and evil thing, and it yells, "DO AS YOU ARE TOLD!"

Reluctant Gecko

As soon as the camera comes out, the geckos hide. This one decided to give me the stink eye too.

I blame my brain for this shot.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

I (Heart) Chocolate

Day 42, and it's almost Valentine's day. Thus, the stores are packed with candy and knicknacks in a million shades of red. Naturally, a young man's thoughts wander to the various ways he can attempt not to disappoint his wife this year.

A secret Valentine project has begun, but I dare not speak of it here, since my good lady wife reads this blog. Instead, I shall throw out another Valentine's inspired photo, courtesy of the candy that was purchased for my Daughter's pre-school class:

I (Heart) Chocolate

Is there anything that says Valentine's Day more than a heart made of hearts that are made of chocolate and are also suckers? I do not think so.

ISO 100, f/20, 1/200th shutter in the lightbox. 580EX II to the right at 1/4 power, and the LP-120 on the left at 1/2 power, fired with the Pocket Wizards.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

I won't quit my day job...

My day job is in downtown Winnipeg. I have a really good job: It pays well, I enjoy the work, and most of the people I work with are good folks. The building I work in also has a little interest, but I've never been able to shoot it satisfactorily.

For day 41, I decided to try again and post it no matter what:

Blocky Building

The building is studded with these blocky little buildouts, and while it's not exactly Frank Lloyd Wright, the angles and lines are interesting. This is the best shot I have managed of it to date, and that's not saying much unfortunately. Compounding the issue is that with the sun staying so low in the sky this time of year, you get a heavy shadow somewhere all day long.

I do like the blue/gray tones, the reflection of the next building over on the top row of windows, so it's not a total loss. Perhaps later in the year, I can do a better job. It's a challenge I'll make sure to come back to.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

More shots for Defiant Racing

Here are the other keepers from my late night, really cold shoot for my friends racing team last night.

Comments and criticism are always welcome!

Defiant - Headshot

Defiant - Richard

Defiant - Helmet

Defiant - Ready to Ride

Go Canada, Go!

Hey guess what? Day 40 and I still can't seem to take night pictures.

Tripod? Check. Big aperture? Check. Slightly fuzzy, terribly exposed picture? Check.

Go Canada, Go!

70mm, ISO 100, f/2.8, 4 second exposure, on tripod.

I think the subject matter killed me here. This is the Royal Canadian Mint, and it is adorned with huge gold, silver and bronze medals. The contrast between the darker sections of the building and the lighter medals causes the colour to blow out however. Oh, poop.

Well, I gave it shot. Back to editing motorcycle pictures...

So tired...

It's late and I'm tired. Day 39 meant going to a friend's place and shooting some photos the website of his new motorcycle racing team, Defiant Racing.

I've been PP'ing his shots all night, and now I must sleep. Here is one of the shots from today:


Can I go to bed now?

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Portrait Pictures!

Thank you a million times over to my very good friends who were kind enough to let me not only take their family portraits, but to share them with those of you who chose to read along as I undertake this incredible learning curve.

Here are four of my favourite pictures from today's shoot.

Their kids and dogs:

First Portraits - #2

Mom and Dad:

First Portraits - #3

Their son, the Drummer-in-training:

First Portraits - #4

Their daughter:

First Portraits - #1

For my first portrait shoot, I am very happy. Lots of room to improve, but nothing here that I am disappointed with.


Today's family portrait shoot went... well! I got a few shots that I am really proud of and I made one major goof that blew one set of shots completely.

I'm not posting any of the pictures at this point since I want the family to see the pictures and approve of it first, but I think that this fully qualifies a completed day for my Project 365.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Winnipeg means snow!

For day 37, my temporarily beloved 24-70 and I went out to shoot light trails. Just one problem: Snow.

I do live in a winter city, so trekking through knee-deep snow to set up a tripod on a snow drift is just second nature, but for long exposures, it *kills* any sharpness you night have had. Add to that the slippery roads reducing traffic, and my light trail shooting had to be aborted early. I also don't have a weather-sealed body so I was using my hat to keep the body dry.

This is the best shot of the night:

Lights in the Snow

Not terrible, but you can see the lack of sharpness if you look at the railing on the overpass, and not once did I manage to get traffic coming and going at the same time.

Today's lesson, take what you can get.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Luck and the amateur photographer...

Day 36 and I got lucky.

My initial thought was to mix oil in coloured water and shoot it in a glass to see what sort of patterns I could get. The results were AWFUL. Curved glass just reflects too much, and I could never quite get the focus right. Ugly pics, pretty much a write-off.

Well, knowing I have had some good luck shooting top down, I took one or two shots. I got lucky.


I just love the patterns in this, and it looks like the surface of a star to me. I just really, really like this shot.

There has been some post processing on this. The flash was not set up to take the image top down, so it threw some harsh red light on the lower right, although the rest of the background was pure white, so I cleaned that up in GIMP.

I shot this with the 60mm, since the 24-70 and I didn't get a chance to walk around today. The next three days are going to be big ones for me, and I hope that I can share some reasonably decent portrait work with you!

Thursday, February 4, 2010

The rich part of town...

For day 35, a friend and I went down to Wellington Crescent during lunch to see what we could see. In the summer, I'll be returning there to shoot some of the grand old churches, but today was about frost, snow and things that are red.

I kept three pictures out of about 15 I took, and three of the four subjects I shot had keepers. My average is getting better.

Shot number one:

Frost on Red Brick

This old tree is in front of an old red brick building. You don't see a lot of brick in Winnipeg as the extreme hot/cold swings we get are very hard on them. In the wealthier parts of town though, brick rules. This building has had some modern HVAC bolted on to it and the exhaust blows right over this tree causing dense frost crystals to form.

Shot two is the result of the same exhaust:

Frosty Fence

I think I like this better than the branch shot, the depth of field adds an element, and the wonky leaning fence is kind of charming as well. It lacks in colour, but I think the sparkle of the frost would be lost in a monochrome conversion.

Finally, across the street is this view:

Red Door District

I'm an absolute sucker for repeating patterns and shapes, so these doors really caught my eye. I tried a few crops removing the road and/or the fire hydrant, but I like the way the road leads the eye across the shot. Your opinion may vary, please let me know if you think so.

All in all the 24-70 performed fairly well, but it's a beast of a lens to lug around.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Moving on up...

Day 34 of Project 365 left me very hurried. Lots of meetings, etc. I'm not going to harp on it, but today was the sort of day that left me thinking: "Why am I doing this again?!"

So, it's a challenge that I take personally. On the way back to my car from work, I grabbed the camera, and shot anything that looked even a bit interesting, and figured I would find something I liked.

Here it is:

Movin' on up...

It has some issues, but it has a nice line that I like, a strong colour contrast, and I like the steam that seems to follow the same line as the stepped building. It's okay, it works for me. I feel like the 24-70 deserves better though! Tomorrow, I'll get a proper walk around in.

My background kit came in today, and I drastically underestimated the size of a 10' x 20' piece of muslin. The supports are nice and solid, the fabric nice and heavy, so now I just need to learn how to use it. By this weekend. No pressure.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Mystery device...

First things first, here is the 24-70 mounted on my little XSi:

It's a monster of a lens. I am really looking forward to spending some quality time with this quality piece of glass... That shot was taken with my wife's P&S and it's dinky on-board flash so excuse the lack of lighting!

For day 32, I reverted to my indoor ways and was playing with colour and patterns in the lightbox:


I'd tell you what this device is, but where is the fun in that? I'll give free internet cookies to the first person who can identify this object!

This one was tricky to light. The bright yellow reflected a ton of light, so if I actually brought the exposure up enough to blow the background to pure white, you'd lose most of the detail, and some of the definition in the yellow segments.

Man, I really need to learn to PP...

A big week coming up...

As you might remember, I have a rented EF 24-70mm f/2.8L USM coming in to do some portrait practice with family friends this week. The lens arrived today, and it is sitting in it's Pelican case at home with my lovely wife. I am itching to go home from work and get it, but I still need a paycheck from my day job!

My rental was arranged with a Canadian company called LensLenders and so far my experience has been excellent. Very good communication, and the lens arrived several days earlier than my rental period is scheduled to begin. They do $99CDN weekend rentals, or $149 a week including shipping both ways, with discounts for additional weeks. They rent a wide variety of Canon and Nikon lenses, and a few Olympus ones as well. So far, I would highly recommend the service.

As is my history with hobbies, I tend to overdo things a bit, so I have also purchased a background support system with 10' x 20' Muslin backdrops in both white and black. As I was chatting about this with friends at the office, one of them has actually asked me to come and shoot some promo photos for his newly formed motorcycle racing team. It's just a local team for a local league, but it's a way to get my name out there.

I never intended to do this as anything more than a hobby, but if people are going to start asking me to do shoots for them, maybe I can make a few bucks on the side evenings and weekends? The only thing stopping me from that idea is a simple question of self confidence. I'm not convinced I'm any good at this yet!

Maybe I'll have some answers by next weekend.

Comment moderation turned on...

Well, since I still haven't sorted out the Captcha stuff for commenting, I've had to enable comment moderation for now. Can you believe my little blog just got it's first comment spam?

Monday, February 1, 2010

The best seat in the house!

Day 32, and I swore I would take a picture *before* I got home. I like shooting macro, and playing in the lightbox is fun, but it's time to change it up, even if just for one day.

I had a subject in mind, but I wasn't sure how to frame it. I took a chance, shot two or three angles, and to my eye this is the best I managed:

Best Seat in the House

I call it the 'Best seat in the house' but it's totally not. Irony! Technical details - ISO 100, f/4.5 and 1/400th shutter.

Composition in this shot really left me scratching my head, and it still is. There is a contrast effect between the fabric and snow that is nice, the graffiti on the wall is interesting but not distracting from the focus, but that's about it. Maybe I should have shot from closer, played with the perspective more. I'm not sure. This might be the subject of a reshoot later on.

This is where the back alley picture in this post opens into the parking lot, and you are looking back of a couple of hole-in-the-wall Chinese food restaurants. This couch appeared some time in November, and since then the snow draft has been fighting a battle of attrition with it.

I'm curious to see if the drift will completely engulf it before the melt hits.