Friday, April 30, 2010

Jumping for joy...

Today is day 120 of my Project 365.

There was no day 119 picture as I spent all day at HSC Children's Hospital with my little guy for a day surgery. He's recovering pretty well, but it's going to be a rough few weeks. This little toy was bought for him as a present to have when he came home, and when you hold it down and let go, it jumps.

Jump for Joy

My boy is home, and he's doing well. Jump for joy!

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Low Key

For day 118 I wanted to work with a few different things: a single light, shadow and silhouettes. I needed a subject with some interesting and varied texture to pull this off, and I found something around the house that worked:

Low Key

This key and lock belong to a hundred-and-some-odd years old barrister bookcase that my wife inherited some time ago. The combination of the woodgrain and metal work gave me the texture I wanted and the cloverleaf handle of the key gave a good shape and texture. I wanted a harsher light so this is not shot with an umbrella or diffuser, but there is a Honl 'frost' gel on the flash to soften it ever so slightly.

I've been working with a trial version of Photoshop Elements 8 as opposed to a two-step process of Canon DPP and GIMP, and I think this shot has convinced me that I need to buy the software. The control over the RAW image is just great, and the amount of polish you can great straight from the RAW image is just head and shoulders above the other solution.

Another thing I need to save my pennies and dimes for!

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Project 365-ish?

I didn't manage a good shot yesterday. I did shoot, but there was nothing worth keeping. On most nights, I wouldn't let that go and I'd try a few other shots, but I was dealing with the combination of a sick child not sleeping, surgery for my infant son coming up on Thursday, a deadline to finish my Cancer Society canvassing, and throwing my back out. Not a fun day. Today went a little smoother.

Today's shot was inspired by a shot taken for a DPS weekend photography challenge, which had the 'High Contrast Black and White' theme. The shot I liked and wanted to emulate is this one which is a simple shot of black face cards.

I went a little different with my shot, introducing a little colour and changing up the cards themselves. I went with the "Dead Man's Hand", Aces and Eights:

Dead Man's Hand

I allowed a little shadow to show, and cranked the black levels. These cards are old, scratched and yellowed a bit so an increase to the contrast was also needed to push the cards themselves to pure white. I like the effect, with almost a 'halo' of shadow. The red also adds a little more zip.

I like both shots, so I'm happy with this. I'll attempt to keep up my shooting for the rest of the week, but depending on my little guys' surgery goes, I may slip a little more on the '365' part of my Project 365.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

I'm alive!

Sorry for the lack of posting the last two days, I've been shooting but it's been family stuff. A violation of the 'Project 365' rules maybe, but not the spirit :)

Today is day 115, and here is a shot that I came up with while doing dishes, of all things:


Basically, this is water streaming through a plastic colander. The 580EX II speedlite is on the left at about 1/4 power and green gelled, and the LP120 is on the right at 1/8th power blue gelled just to give a little contrast. I expected slightly more blue tone in the shot, but I liked it enough as is. Focus is pretty good, but I couldn't manage much more crispness at 1/200th shutter. In hindsight I should have used the long-shutter-manual-strobe technique with this shot, but I didn't think of it until I was in post-processing.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Earth Day photo!

Day 112, April 22nd is Earth Day, and I had a few ideas for shots. I wanted to do a small collage of things we do at our house to make a difference. However, tonight is also the first round of the NFL draft, and I am a die-hard Lions fan, so I had to scale back a bit.

I did manage to get one shot of something that we do with our son to make a difference: cloth diapers!

Cloth Bummocks

Trying to go higher lighting, more high-key in look. I have to learn to balance this with the skin tones, but it worked fairly well I think. This shot had two brolly'd speedlights, the 580EX II at 1/4 power and the LP120 at 1/2, both roughly 45 degrees from my son on a white muslin backdrop. Shot at ISO 100, f/4, 1/200th shutter.

Of course when my daughter saw this all set up, she insisted on getting a picture too. Being a goofy 4 year old, she was running around shirtless, so I went with the idea of vulnerability as a focus, and tried to get her to settle a bit and looked for a more sombre moment to shoot.

This is that shot:

Spotlight Hog

Same sort of issue with the skin tones, but I think it works for this 'type' of shot. I was dialing around my settings on the fly as she moved about, and I wanted I tighter DoF, so this shot was taken at 1/80th, at f/3.5. She was slightly further away from the lights as well, so that accounts for some of the variation in the camera settings as well.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Swing on the spiral...

Tonight, I wanted to do another shot inspired by DPS. DPS is still a great go-to source for ideas, inspiration and questions. If you aren't already reading their articles, I really recommend it.

The shot is done by suspending a light source above a vertically oriented camera. It's set into motion and then you shoot the resulting pattern with blub mode. Sounds simple enough, right?

Here's my version of this shot:

Gluons Gone Wild!

I used a three-led light, with three gels on it. A blue and green each covering one of the outer bulbs, and then a soft white over all three bulbs. I hadn't planned on using the soft white one, but even at the max aperture on my lenses (f/22) everything blew out to near white with even a few seconds of exposure.

The focus might also be a bit rough, but I had the camera literally a few inches off the floor on my Gorillapod, so trying to establish a good focus was really tricky. I think this is actually in focus, but the lack of crispness can be attributed to both flaring from the strong light pointed right at the lens, and the use of the kit lens. I had to shoot this at around 24mm focal length, as the 50mm could not give me a large enough field of view to get a nice large swing pattern. Smaller patterns did not give the definition I wanted, so the kit lens was a must-use in this scenario.

All in all, a fun shot, but it took a lot longer to setup and execute than expected!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

This post is eco-friendly!

Had a chance to stroll a bit this afternoon, and I had a chance to shoot something I've been waiting for.

Manitoba Hydro, our provincial gas/electric distributor has built one of the greenest office buildings in North America, kitty-corner to where my work is. It's not a particularly attractive building, but it has a wide variety of new techniques and technologies to conserve power, including a series of solar vents used to cool the building in the summer.

Since our temps are pretty warm right now, they were in operation today:

One Window Closed

This was a *lot* tougher to shoot than I thought it would be. Nice clear sky, great reflections and a neat geometric pattern... Sounds easy! Well, shooting from ground level introduces some weird perspective issues, and more than that, you really can't point to an individual part of the frame that becomes a focal point.

The reason I kept this shot and this crop out of the dozen or so I took is the one closed window. It breaks up the pattern a bit, and I hope it draws the eye, but I can't really say if it was successful or not. I'll leave that up to you.

Monday, April 19, 2010

A short two-fer...

Man, shooting and posting is brutal these days, and it's not going to get any easier in the near future... Apologies for the short post, but here are the last two day's shots.

Day 108 left me looking for inspiration. Frankly, you can find it almost anywhere:


I just couldn't manage to get it posted last night.

For tonight, I wanted to do a self portrait with a twist. I know selective colouration is 'out' in photography circles, but I still like it in some cases. I guess I'm just a fool...

The Fool

Thanks for reading, I'll be back again tomorrow if all goes as planned.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Quick post...

Sorry have to make this fast, busy day and guests on the way.

I just wanted to mess around with a silly toy that my son plays with. It's a hammer. A happy hammer. A happy hammer with the dead eyes of a killer.

Hank the Sociopathic Hammer

His name is Hank. Hank the sociopathic hammer.

The eggs should really stop inviting that guy over.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Bowl lightning?

Today was a good day to head back and look at an earlier concept and reshoot it. I've mentioned this once or twice before, but I consider this a good way to both apply new techniques I've learned, and to see how far I've come in this process. So for day 106, we are going to revisit day 9.

Light painting looks great, although it's not particularly unique. I decided to add an object, two colours of lights (using gels) and some better new techniques in low-light shooting.

Here is today's shot:

Bowl o' Lightning

I had wanted the light to 'fill' the bowl more, but my light sources physically didn't fit in the bowl, so it ended up sort of floating around it. I had to clear out some flaring and shadows at the bottom of the shot as well, but I think this is head and shoulders above my earlier effort, and that's what I want to see.

Thanks for reading!

Thursday, April 15, 2010

At the crossing...

Day 105 was a day of good omen. There is a pair of shots that I have been wanting to get for at least two months now, and it was going to totally depend on dumb luck (or more planning that I care to do right now) to get them. Well, today I got dumb lucky.

At the Crossing - 1

At the Crossing - 2

Basically, I go through this train crossing twice a day to and from work, and it's suitably industrial on one side to be urban-grungy while also being adjacent to housing on the other side and as such, isolated enough to shoot without a lot of distractions getting into the shot.

These shots were both taken handheld, so I was leaning against the signal for the shot down the length of the train at 1/15th shutter, and against my car for the shot with the signal at 1/13th shutter. Without the extended shutter speed, these shots wouldn't work so I'm glad I was able to keep still enough with a mono-pod or some such.

Finally, this was not planned as a monochrome set of shots, but the sky was just *dead* today. Good for light, but bad for colour, and it totally dominated the shot and killed the tones in the train. Monochrome seems to allow the subject to stand out better, so I made the switch.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Seasonally inappropriate!

Okay, so for day 104 I did something I was going to save for a more appropriate season. It kind of falls into the 'trick' photography category I suppose, but really it's more of 'not-what-it-seems' type of subject.

Here's the shot:

Sweet and Spicy Xmas

Merry Xmas in April! Flatleaf parsley, raspberries, a cinnamon stick and a whole star anise were used to make the tree. Either this is a silly photo or the start of an awesome sounding salad. Maybe both.

Side note, the shot from two days ago of the hot sauce bottle has made it's way back the bottler and they are looking into using it on their site! Yay!

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Engage the reactor!

My daughter was *freaking out* when I got home. She got new sunglasses, and she knew that Daddy *needed* to take a picture of her today.

Once again, I know enough to take the orders handed to me by the women in my life...

Goggle Girl

She's a nut, but she's my nut :)

Monday, April 12, 2010

Hot Stuff!

Day 102, and I set aside an hour and a half to do tonight's shot. There is a marked difference in quality between my 'shots' and the ones that I really sit down, plan out, and execute. Tonight, I wanted to take a few of the techniques I've worked on over the last few weeks and make a shot that really popped.

I think I got it:

Hot Stuff

The dimensions are weird on this one as opposed to my standard 2:3 or 4:5 ratio shots, so it's pretty small here, click through to Flickr for a better look.

I've combined the black reflective box style with a gelled flash smoke shot, with a fiar bit of post processing for colour and masking out imperfections in the background. There is a red gel on the left side and a yellow on the right, aimed slightly higher to make a gradient of colour and mimic flames.

Honestly, I love this one. The hot sauce is excellent too. High fives all around!

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Graphical graphite!

Day 101 of Project 365 was also pretty busy, and by the end of the day I was pretty bagged, but I was looking for interesting picture subjects all day. I had a couple of ideas by the end of the day, but I settled on something that would have a little randomness to it.

My daughter is learning to write her name (along with several other words) and shes been going through a lot of pencils and crayons. I borrowed one of them and her sharpener tonight, and decided to see if I could get some interesting curls. What I gout was actually a little loop:

Graphical Graphite

Tight DOF and blown highlights seemed to be the best way to shoot this, and there is a lot of detail and interesting 'cragginess' in the graphite at the center. I played around with a bunch of other compositions, and I'm not sure what else to do with it. I think there is something better, but I'm not sure what... Maybe something to come back to another day?

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Two for one...

I was current on my shots this weekend, but editing and posting fell behind, so this is day 99 and 100 of my Project 365. And what a very busy weekend it has been!

For day 99, I was once again contemplating the glory of coffee, as my much beloved, but ill-sleeping son continues to drive me back to the blessed brown bean for it's concentration of caffeinated comfort.

Care for a refill?

This shot actually wasn't what I was planning shooting, but as I was pouring the beans into the mug, I liked the scattering beans as it filled and then spilled out. I shot a few exposures at this stage, and I kind of liked this one. I never got around to doing the shot I planned.

For day 100, you might think I would do something special, after all 100 is a big, round number and big round numbers are special. Well, it didn't work out that way, because of this MetaFilter comment. I had friends over, and we made this horrific dish.

Behold, the horror that is... GREASY HONKY PIE:

Greasy Honky Pie

No all pictures need to be beautiful, right? Also, my arteries are weeping.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Just smoke, no mirrors...

Hello my friends, and welcome to episode 98 of 'Stupid Dave Tricks!'

Tonight, your intrepid host set up a couple of flashes with red and blue gels, his lightbox (as a background), and started burning some incense. All of this for more smoke shots, but with a colourful twist!

Tickling the Dragon's Tail


These shots are basically all about the setup. The background is white, but illuminated with a blue-gelled flash to the subject left. This flash was set to very low power, 1/32nd. On the right, a red-gelled strobe illuminates the smoke at high power, 1/4th, and it is snooted to prevent too much light bleed on the background.

Fun shots, but like a lot of these setup shots, I took a *lot* of exposures to get a few that I liked. Focus issues are part of the problem, but the random nature of the smoke also means that you are going to do a little spray-and-pray and hope for good results. I like both shots and I have at least two more that I'd consider keepers, so overall it was a good night.

On the downside, if any cops come over and sniff the air, I am so getting busted.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Springtime is swingtime!

Day 97 was a really nice day out. A bit cool, but sunny, and a great day to hang out with the kids in the back yard after work. Well, the kids and the camera :)


Let me say that focusing on a kid on a swingset is *not easy*, but the 50mm f/1.4 performed admirably given the tough conditions. These pictures were both back-lit by the sun, so a nice wide aperture to help bring in the faces was a help. I shot this with no light modifiers and no fill flash, so these are mostly SOOC, although I did run a desaturated high-pass filter on them to help with the contrast and clarity a bit. I like the effect in portraits.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

You got it kid...

For day 96 of my project 365, I let my daughter pick anything she wanted for my picture, as I was struggling both with time to shoot and inspiration.

She picked a pink easter egg with a red ribbon and a bow on it in a green easter basic. You got it kid.

Sabrina's Choice

Ah, four-year-olds. What the heck is going on in that head...

Monday, April 5, 2010

Rabbits of the Lost Ark

Day 95, and Easter is largely over, but the cheap chocolate has just hit the stores.

This shot doesn't need much of an introduction. Just having some fun with a cheap chocolate bunny, a heat lamp, and a great scene from a great movie. This one looks best blown up, so click the pic for the Flickr page if you like.

Rabbits of the Lost Ark

What else can I add? Thanks for reading!

Oh, and nothing was wasted. My wife said that the heat lamp made the chocolate taste 'messy', and yet she had no complaints.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

April showers...

Today was supposed to be a days of shooting at the Manitoba Museum, and when I arrived I pulled out the camera, snapped on the flash and the Omnibounce, fired it up and proceeded to cuss myself out as the screen displayed 'no card'. AGH!

So, a new plan had to be hatched for day 94. This was not an incredibly welcome development given the standard family activities on Easter Sunday. Fortunately, our potluck dish was already in the slow cooker so I had some time to research ideas, and I had some time after the dinner to devote to actually shooting the thing.

Tonight, the goal was to shoot something that I would normally shoot specifically just for colour, and to make it work in monochrome.

First, here's the shot:

April Showers

My thought was that I needed another point of interest beside simple a strong colour, which I admittedly rely on in a lot of simpler shots. I wanted more contrast, more texture and more detail. Part of this came from the water droplets, and the rest came in bloom selection/composition and post-processing. I wanted to insure that the stripes on the petals were in sharp focus and prominent in the shot, and that the light would be nice and soft, while creating a strong definition between the foreground and background, so this was shot with off-camera flash and an umbrella very close to the flower. Contrast was also cranked up a bit in post to give it a little more pop, and green filter effect was applied to smooth the highlights in the petals.

All in all, I think this translated well to monochrome, and that was the goal. Not too bad for a shot that I never intended to take today!

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Beer beer beer, bed bed bed!

寿司のために友人を持っていた。 それらはアジアビールを持って来た。 私はそれらを愛する。

Beer Beer Beer Bed Bed Bed

Friday, April 2, 2010

This is not how they come from Safeway...

Ah, Easter. It's the most horrible of holidays, combining fragile food items, vats of permanent dye and hyperactive four-year-olds. What's the worst that could happen?

A quick post today, as we were surprisingly busy for a holiday day, but I promised my little girl that Daddy's picture today could be of her eggs that we dyed today:

Not how they come from Safeway

Something simple, but it will be something for us to remember as a family. That's kind of the point, right?

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Strawberry Milk

I'm continuing to play around with high-speed shots and speedlites, and I did some more reading about really freezing motion. For day 91, I set up another shot, and did some more experimentation.

Today, I am going to post the picture first, and then explain what I did differently:

Strawberry Milk

One of the things I have found hard about shots like this is that the max flash sync speed on most DSLRs is about 1/200th of a second. Basically you can't shoot any faster than that without getting a black or partially obliterated exposure due to the shutter being in the exposure when the flash fires. Since your average flash is only generating light for bursts as quickly as 1/8000th of a second, it's somewhat frustrating. You can use something called high-speed sync but you lose a lot of light doing so. It works, but it's imperfect.

Having done more reading, I wanted to try an alternate method of exposing high-speed, which is to use a long exposure on the shutter in a dark room, and remotely triggering the flash. This should, essentially, give you the equivalent of a very, very short exposure, and that is how this shot was taken.

Ideally, you would trigger your flash with something like a StopShot system, but I don't have one. In this case, the flash was fired by the test button and hand-timed. I can't complain, I managed this on the third or fourth try at which point I was tired of cleaning up milk splashes!

I think the effect works, and this is absolutely something I am going to continue to play. I also want to finish uploading my galleries on the business website, so far I have landscapes and portraits complete.

Time to start promoting the business soon!