Educating the barbarians

While in Florida for my sister’s baby shower I took it upon myself to play “staff photographer” for the event. Mind you, nobody asked me to do such, but what sort of amateur photographer would I be if I didn’t drag along my equipment and blind everyone with a firing flash?

I did take plenty of pictures (about 400) and I will eventually upload some to Flickr, but I took so many and I have an important project to undertake with them such that Flickr will have to find itself on the back burner. Sorry about that folks.

During the opening of the gifts portion of the party I had seated myself on the floor not ten or so feet from my sister so that I could take picture after picture of the lovely gifts she received from all in attendance. Being that this part of the party was indoors I had to resort to flash and was making best use of what little I know about flash work (on camera to be specific). During a brief lull in the gift opening one of the younger family members in attendance (an approximately 12 year old niece of my brother in law), who was seated right by me, asked why it was that I had my flash pointing at the ceiling and what was the little white thing poking out the top (the bounce card built in to my Canon 580 EX II).

I was rather intrigued that this twelve year old little girl was asking such a smart question and felt it deserved a real answer….as real as I could give that is. I said to her “Let me explain it by first taking a couple of pictures,” which I did in quick succession while making changes to the flash unit’s settings for each photograph. The pictures follows:

straight flash

straight flash

bounce

bounce

Using the camera’s LCD screen I showed her each photograph and asked her which she thought looked better, hoping she would select the right photograph such that my explanation would make more sense. Fortunately she did indeed select the second photograph and so I asked her why she liked it better. Being a clever young lady she suggested it was because the lighting looked better…”…more even….” being the main thrust of her commentary.

And she’s right. As such I took a minute to explain how bouncing the flash off a white surface (the ceiling above) spread out the light more evenly and thus more gently on the subject; my sister. I further explained that the pull-out white card on the flash directed a bit of the flash’s output directly towards my sister to help lift any shadows that may have been created by the flash’s main light being bounced from above onto my sister-the-subject (mostly for the area around the eyes and under the chin).

It was really a pleasure to spend a few moments explaining what I was doing and why I was doing it the way I was to someone. I’m certain other folks (and by “folks” I mean adults) must have wondered the same thing, but perhaps they were simply too afraid to ask the question for fear of feeling dumb, which is simply absurd. Had I not read about bouncing flash off walls to create a better effect I would have wondered why the crazy guy with the camera was pointing his flash at the ceiling instead of at the gift opening woman in the chair.

Or maybe they just didn’t care.

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“This is the last song I will every sing”

For those of you who don’t already know and for those of you who do, consider this a gentle reminder…

I’m not home right now. This means I’m somewhere other than home. Oddly enough I’m home though.

See, I’m not at my home, but at my parent’s home, which used to be my home, so I’m sort-of home, but not really home. But I’m home.

Home.

Anywho……I’m down in Florida to spend the week as my sister, my rather pregnant sister (triplets if you must know), is having her baby shower, etc. Here is my mother and sister (pic taken 2008/11/26 when she was about 20-weeks preggers)

Mom & Sis-Flickr

I have brought my camera and I’m pretty certain I will take some pictures, but I haven’t decided to what extent I wish to annoy everyone. I’d love to capture the moments, but I’d also like to partake of them and this is always the problem for the shutterbug in the family: to take pictures or to not and therefore be more involved in what is going on around them. Hopefully I will find some happy middle-ground.

In the mean time it is rather unlikely that I will be posting here, on WP, or on Flickr, so you will just have to get on without me for a week or so. Try not to take it so hard.

“Farwell to this lands cheerless marshes”

What to do…..what to do…..what to do…..

Consider this:

2009_01_03_40D05

Yeah. I know. Not quite what I had in mind either. See……I’ve had this idea for a few weeks of trying a few different things. You know, just to branch out a bit and keep the whole photography thing alive and kicking. My plans for winter shooting out of doors have been put on hold due to that ever useless bitch Mother Nature, who, for the life of her, cannot get her winter game-face on here in southwest Ohio. So I start putting this idea together that I’d like to use the fast burst mode on my camera and photograph Big Boi playing with his cat toy (emphasis on “his”), which we call Boi Toi. Cute, eh? So the other day I finally drag out the camera and tripod and make my way to the living room, which happens to have the best and strongest light of the day at this time. I opt to shoot with my fixed 50mm f/1.8 thinking that the super wide aperature will allow for lots of light to strike my sensor, thus allowing me to use a fast shutter speed to capture all the motion in a sort of freeze-frame effect.

Alas, the best laid plans.

The natural light wasn’t as strong as I had thought and so the shutter speed wasn’t as high as I had hoped. However, not all was lost here as I quickly reviewed taken shots and realized that with the slower shutter speed I was capturing some blur (too much on occasion), which really worked in the pictures. The blurring truly conveyed the sense of movement, which would have been absent at higher shutter speeds. But fate had more surprises in store for me. The 50mm, while a lovely lens, is really an 80mm once the smaller APS sensor is accounted for. Thus the field of view between the lens and the floor was rather narrow; more narrow than I had expected. This led to the problem of trying to keep the cat and toy within the frame at all times. Needless to say this was rather impossible and I subsequently wound up with loads of shots with more than half the cat out of frame. Still, I was able to salvage some from this experiment:

2009_01_03_40D04

The final straw was also something I had not anticipated (big surprise there, eh?). The camera and lens were set to auto-focus during this experiment. When I was later viewing the pictures on my computer’s monitor I quickly noticed how often the little leather bits at the end of the string were in focus, but the cat was not! Well shit. But this doesn’t mean the experiment was a total waste of time because it wasn’t. First, I learned that I need more light. Second, I learned that a slower shutter speed is not a bad thing for this particular setting. Third, I learned that with stronger (much stronger) lighting I may be able to adjust the aperture to something like f/9 or even f/11 and increase my focal depth such that both the cat and toy are more evenly in-focus. And finally, I learned that I should use a wider angle lens for this experiment…..or go out and buy the new full frame Canon 5D Mark II. But as I know my wife would slit my throat I think I’ll avoid that particular plan of attack for the time being.

Next (I’ve been a busy little bee of late!) I took part in a little home-building project. No. I didn’t get the walls prep’d for painting, but I did put together a home-made light box. It is rather crude, but rather larger than the ones sold at my local camera shop. In addition it only cost about $50 for all the components versus $100 for the one at my camera store, which is about half the size to boot. My apologies for not having taken pictures of the light box or its construction, but I didn’t want to take the time to photograph the assemblage in fears that it would turn out horribly wrong and then I’d look like more of a tool than usual.

So, it turned out okay. Not as nice as I had hoped, but it was a first-run and I imagine that many folks encounter less-than-stellar results on the first attempt at anything. I also managed to give it a go photography-wise, which also led to less-than-stellar results:

2009_01_03_40D07

There are a couple of things wrong with both the light box and the photographs I took. (1) The colour is off. Too grey. Or so I think. And I fiddled with white balance, but never got quite for what I was looking, but I didn’t spend a whole lot of time on it. This was an experimental run; really just to determine if I should purchase more lights for the box (which I should and will). (2) I need to run some white tape along the inside borders of the box because there is a small gap which did appear in some of my photographs. Fortunately I was doing some zoom and crop to the photos so the hint-of-dark disappeared. (3) I need a real close-up/macro lens. I put off purchasing my preferred Canon 100mm f/2.8 as I didn’t think I would need its close-up abilities until next spring, but with the light box I definitely have need for it. I think an order shall soon be placed at Adorama.com.

So there you are. Two experiments recently undertaken where the results were not up to spec, but all was not lost. I consider these to be learning experiences, each filled with the appropriate amount of learning curve. I am so certain that there are plenty of amateur photographers out there who would have nailed things better the first time round, but I am not one of them. Typically I must plod along numerous times until I get it right, if ever. But that’s okay. If nothing else it shows that I’m thinking, acting upon my thinking and analyzing the results in hopes that I learn something which I can apply in round two. Besides….it’s always nice to be behind the camera!