"For the artist communication with nature remains the most essential condition. The artist is human, himself nature, part of nature within natural space." Paul Klee

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

A Simple Set Up - Natural Light

Here's a very simple lighting set up using just the light from outside. It's very cloudy outside so I knew the light would be soft. There's three light sources here coming from one huge outside soft light. My key light is from camera right - the back door's open! couldn't be simpler. The second light is coming from the blinds. I adjusted the blinds pointing down so the light would hit the top of my little set. The third light is a home made reflector-you can see it sitting on the chair. It's just a piece of cardboard with silvery reflective material glued to the other side. It's kicking back a little light on the front of my set pieces. You can use tin foil, a shiny pan lid...anything that reflects light. A mirror might be too strong but you just back it off until it looks good.

The camera was set to ISO 200 and cloudy. The f stop is 1.4 to achieve a very shallow depth of field. You can see that the cup and front part of the brioche is in focus but from mid frame it goes soft. Shutter speed is 1/500.

Obviously you can elaborate to your heart's content with the still life objects but you don't really need any professional lights to accomplish this. Try it...practice...have fun!!
Yes, I did drink the espresso and eat that brioche.
Stay tuned.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Spring Showers Bring Out the Umbrellas

Spring is in the air and Lisa looks ready for it. This is actually a repost from yesterday. I tried to edit yesterday's post and something went "blah". Anyway, off we go. Yes, spring is in the air, the smells are sweet, the sun is making the new colors sparkle, and it's just going to get better.
These shots of Lisa were taken in full noon time sun. Trying to add fill light with just a small Nikon Speedlite SB600 was quite a challenge. Thanks to Lisa for being patient and letting me tweak and fuss with the lighting.

The camera (Nikon D80) was set to ISO 100. Taking the pictures top to bottom, #1 to #4. Numbers 1 and 3 were shot with an old Nikkor 50mm open wide to f1.4 giving me a shutter speed of 2500! The speedlite is camera right shooting through a white umbrella just feathered off the top of her head and a Lowell silver reflector bouncing sunlight back on the dress. The reflector is almost on the ground.

Shots 2 and 4. I had the standard Nikkor 18-135mm. In the train trestle shot the sun is taking care of the left side of the face and the speedlight (no umbrella) positioned about 10ft away zoomed out to 85mm is hitting the right side. f5.6 at 1/1250th.

In the umbrella shot, the speedlight is coming over my right shoulder about 8' away, zoomed to 85mm and hitting the left cheek and fingers and some hair. f5.6 at 1/80th.

The brightest sun, beautiful spring colors, and a super subject made for some nice images. Thanks to Lisa, the sun, and spring!

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Yes It's Warmer But Just Wait

It is starting to get warmer...which is quite a relief after an especially chilly winter in which everyone was complaning.."Enough of this, when is it going to get warmer!!" . I started to remember how hot it can get...and then the complaining starts again.
This shot always bring that back. Last summer in Dallas - The Dallas Hyatt - it's 105 degrees!
the sidewalks were baking...the asphalt was sticky...
Using a polarizing filter and some weird atmospheric effects from the haze and smog and whatever else managed to survive this baker...results...a surreal strange color cast...
There was the brightest sky but it was squeezing itself through some thick particles of industrial goop hanging in the air...I went with ISO 100 at f5.6 hand held at 1/500th of a sec. I didn't have a tripod with me and would have braced the camera on something but every potential surface was scalding hot! Straight from the camera, no P/S here.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Painted Hillside

One morning last October I was driving around in the early morning looking for that Kodak moment, I guess in this case it was a Nikon/Sony moment seeing that most Nikon cameras are racked with Sony sensors. At one point, I looked off to my right and saw this whole hill covered in different swaths of color. I applied the brakes and made a U-ey (?). I had to grab it before the light or wind changed. I love the abstract painterly quality.
ISO 400, 1/800th of a sec at f7.1 seemed to do the trick. I had the 135mm lens stretched out to the max hence the hand held 1/800th.
Hope everybody is getting ready for a glorious spring.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

The Color of Tobacco

Using an old (1980's??) Ambico tobacco filter with the camera in manual, ISO set 1600 (trying to introduce some graininess), f7.1 @ 1/320th.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Vignetted Morning Sun

This picture was shot last year at this time. To me, it's always looked like one of those images you'd see in the old stereo slide scopes. I was experimenting with the Ray Singh Gold/Blue filter at the time. It's a pretty tricky filter in that it works only when placed in an exact position and with the right lighting conditions otherwise it just messes too much with your image. But I guess that goes with most effect filters. With the lens at the widest angle (18mm) it's catching some the corners of the sun hood giving it more of an old time vignetted look. There was no post production done on this shot this is straight from the camera. ISO was 400, 1/125th @ f5.6.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Shooting Dragonflies

Yes, I confess, I've shot many dragonflies in my time...with that admission...dragonfly season will be open for business in a couple of months. Make sure your license is up to date.

They should be hatching sometime late May/June and by July there will be a bazillion flying around.

The best time to capture them with a camera is in the early morning when the air is still cool. When it's hot they get pretty skittery. The hotter it is they faster they seem to fly.

For those of you with macro lenses, getting those 1:1 ratios will certainly be a plus. These two shots were made with a kit lens, the 18-135mm. The largest aperture at full extension is f5.6. So in order to isolate the dragonfly from the background I put the camera into aperture priority mode set at f5.6. The barrel of the lens is pre-extended out to 135, camera is on a monopod so to focus I just move the camera slightly forwards or backwards.

The rest is just patience. Sometimes it may take 10 to 15 minutes just to shoot one. I have found that if one of them is on a branch or twig...it may fly away but just wait because many times they will come back right to the very same spot...within a few seconds at times...and then I just immediately start clicking away before they think (think?) about me.

Thanks for stopping by.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Inside the Cacti

In a couple of months the local cacti community will be alive and well with green prickly leaves and yellow flowers budding from the top. This winter was pretty harsh on the surrounding fauna, many of them perished in the freezing temperatures of February.
This is a cactus I found while hiking yesterday. The cacti were dried up, grey, and laying flat on the ground. Some of the dried skin had cracked and split revealing a complex system of arteries on the interior. Using pliers I put some in a bag and brought them home.
Again, using pliers, an Exacto knife, and heavy leather gloves I gingerly cut and peeled off the outer skin and ended up with the entire schematic of the arterial system...dried, complex, and beautiful.
These pics really don't do them justice because of the lack of resolution on this site but they are fun to look at and study and wonder how they got so complex inside...this multi-layered grid of arteries must store all the trapped moisture allowing the cactus to survive dry periods with an internal plumbing system managing a reservoir of water and nourishment.

This leave was shot on a light table for backlight and just a tiny hit of the pop up flash set at 1/128th power.
I'm not suggesting you try this...but if you do...tools are essential...as are heavy gloves...even
then I ended pulling out a few needles from my fingers.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

The Right Light

I've always said "when the light's right...grab it!" I shot this about 20 minutes ago. I noticed that the light on the porch was very soft and was just hanging there like it fit in. Sometimes the light just sits right down on some part of the world and the mix is just right. This was a combination of a sunny sky with clouds - the sun going in and out behind the clouds - at this time the light was as soft as cotton.
I had the camera set to 320 ISO from the previous bread shot, in manual mode I used the in camera meter which gave me a f7.1 @ 1/80th. A haze edge filter was added on the lens to soften the sides.

French Bread

Sometimes food looks too good to eat. That's what happened here. My wife made some home made french bread and it looked so good...I said..."We can't eat that" Well, since there was a soup planned to go with it...I couldn't stop it's demise. So before slicing it up I had to take a picture.
The bread is on the floor placed on a piece of green fabric next to the front window. The light source is the sun coming thru the window and some sheer curtains. I had the camera set to ISO 320 sort of a split between what I would have used outdoors and indoors today. Aperture set to f9 handheld at 1/40th of a second bracing the camera on a chair looking straight down.
Yes, and it was delicious.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Waiting for Rose

Working in the garden yesterday reminded me that these roses from last year will return soon. This pic is from May - so just 6-7 weeks away. There's just a few roses here but they seem to have an inner life - I think it's the combination of the different sizes/stages of growth. To me they actually seem to be reaching up.
Shot at 8 in the morning before the sun burned off most of the sky color.
Camera was the Nikon D70 with an older Nikkor 50mm lens so the only data recorded was that it was at 1/60th of a sec.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Jumping for Spring

Monica is actually jumping for joy!...perhaps because spring is on the way...or maybe
just because an hour and a half before this shot it was pouring rain with a howling driving wind to boot. It was pretty nasty especially since we were situated on top of an unprotected hill.
Monica and I were on an outdoor shoot together and we were hoping the rain would blow over and we could finish the shoot which is exactly what happened. So before we started I thought she looked rather dapper...and so...we took a few snaps.

The portraits were rated at ISO 200 with flash fill (on Program) f6.3, 1/160th of a sec. For the jump shot I lowered the ISO to 100, f6.3 at 1/16oth.
Thanks for stopping by.