The Sunny f/16 Rule
Tuesday, December 7, 2010
Did you know you can determine the correct exposure outdoors in almost any situation without a light meter and without using your camera’s TTL meter or LCD screen? It’s true. I learned to call this the sunny f/16 rule. I recently spent some time with a dyed-in-the-wool video shooter, a real videographers (if you will), and we were discussing the different truisms and things that are particular to our different industries. For instance, did you know that the standard pat answer for "hey, what are you guys doing?" when you're all set up on a big fancy video shoot is, "We're shooting a mayonnaise commercial." I didn't either. But I love it, and I'm going to use it whenever people ask what I’m shooting. I shared some information with my videographer friend too. Like zone exposure basics and the Sunny f/16 rule. That's where this post from DIY photography comes in, because it's also about the Sunny f/16 rule. It's in the version of a little graphic card you can carry with you in your pocket until you've got the whole thing perfectly memorized. The basics, by the way, are simple: On a normal sunny day, the correct exposure will be 1/ISO at f/16. So if you're shooting at ISO 100, the correct exposure will be 1/100th at f/16. It's translatable to cloudy days and bright snowy or sandy situations too. This card errs on the side of overexposure, but perhaps that’s simply an adjustment for overexposure while shooting RAW. Either way, the principles are sound. You don’t need a meter, or an LCD screen to know the correct exposure as long as you know the Sunny f/16 rule.
What in the world is an arduino?
Monday, December 6, 2010
Let me make one thing clear before we get rolling here: this post is not for the faint of heart. It's aimed at those of you who are Radio Shack junkies. If you know what an arduino is, or what to do with a piezo, or a how on earth a breadboard relates to photography, you may want to keep reading. Or if you desperately want to know what those things do and how you can put a few bucks worth of basic electronics to work for you in the form of a high-speed flash photography rig, you should also keep reading. At this point I suppose I've tipped my hand. What I'm talking about is building a multi-function trigger for high-speed photography—something I’m not sure that I have the patience and skill to do myself. But maybe I’m underestimating my hacker skills. Either way, if you want to do high-speed stop-action shots of balloon pops and water drops and all those great images that allow us to see what the naked eye can't, check out this post at DIYphotography.net. Not only can these devices be put to use for the actual high-speed stop-action shooting, in the right hands (which you might have after watching the embedded video) you can set the rig up to turn off the lights too. Like I said, this isn't for everybody. But if you're happy as a clam when you're up to your elbows in resistors and capacitors and wiring diagrams, definitely check it out and make some cool pictures.
Shooting in the Shower
Friday, December 3, 2010
I recently stumbled upon a gallery of photographs of people in the shower. Don’t worry, it’s totally safe for work. The photos were interesting and engaging enough that I sent an email to the photographer, Nicolas Dumont. He was kind enough to share some before and after images and tell me a little more about his great project.
"At the time of the shoot," Nicolas said, "I'd been a commercial photographer for 17 years and had never done any personal projects. The few times I did think about it, I couldn't come up with anything that made sense. That all changed in December 2007 as I was doing a shoot for a well known shaving company. One of the scenes featured a male model ‘enjoying’ a shower. The water was cold, but he was told to smile and act as if he was having a great time. Needless to say, most of the shots were absurd and comical; advertising at it's worst—or best, depending on how you see it. I suddenly realized that I could replicate that same farcical situation at home, with a few changes."
"I set up a small studio in my kitchen,î he continued, ìthat included a canvas background, three Profoto flash heads, a Manfrotto spring loaded pole fixed wall-to-wall across the kitchen with a shower head fixed to it. The water supply came from the laundry room a few feet away. The Mamiya 645 and Leaf Aptus 75 combo was ready on a heavy duty Manfrotto tripod. The lens was a Mamiya 645 120mm F/4 Macro, which I had to shoot wide open because I had purchased the wrong model on eBay. The dark background and semi-harsh backlights were there to intensify the water effect. My only worry was the electrical installation; I had to be very careful to get the Profoto generators away from the wet areas, as any electric shock could be fatal. As a test, I invited a couple of friends over. Jon and Yuri had already been told that they would have to sit under a shower in my kitchen with their clothes on, but I only told them that the water was cold seconds before the shoot started. The rest of the brief was simple: sit still, stare right into the camera, don't close your eyes and don't show any emotions."
"I ended up inviting quite a few friends to my place," Nicolas added. "I noticed that people were reluctant to show up as soon as they knew that they would have to suffer. My kitchen eventually became known as ‘the torture chamber.’"
The photographer’s RAW image files were processed with Leaf Capture into 16-bit TIFF files, which he then worked on in Photoshop using dodge, burn, curves and hue/saturation controls. No extra sharpening was added.
"I kept some of the test shots,î Nicolas said, ìthe ones done before I opened the water tap. Comparing them to the final shots, its amazing to see how the cold water manages to wash away the vanity, the narcissistic self-image that only leads to mediocre portraits."
Be sure to view the entire great gallery of Rain portraits at Nicolas’ Behance gallery.
Great Photography on Great Covers
Thursday, December 2, 2010
I love great editorial photography. I find it inspiring. Every year, the American Society of Magazine Editors puts together their collection of the year's best magazine covers. The connection between great covers and great photography is an obvious one—particularly when checking out a gallery of this year's nominees. I think editorial photography is where many groundbreaking trends and techniques find their start, and I think this collection proves exactly why. Check out the nominees, along with commentary from each magazine’s staff about the making of the covers, and then remember to return next year to vote for your favorite and enter for a chance to win prizes. By the way, it’s Harper’s Bazaar that won this year. Those Twilight vampires have huge cover cache.
Myths of being a pro photographer
Wednesday, December 1, 2010
You're a talented photographer. You like earning extra income and meeting interesting people thanks to your camera. Why not pursue a career in the glamorous world of professional photography? After all, you'll party with supermodels and soon be rolling in cash, right? Your biggest concern will be how to choose from among the countless assignments you're offered on a regular basis. So you might as well just do it.
Maybe these myths are a little extreme, but some folks think the world of professional photography is a lot more glamorous than it really is. There are many common misunderstandings about what it's really like to be a commercial photographer. On his Lighting Essentials blog, Don Giannatti dispels these and other myths about what it's like to earn your living as a pro. It's not as exciting as you may think, but it isn't all bad either. If you're considering pursuing photography for more than fun, check out Don's post and make sure you're okay with the reality of being a working photographer as opposed to just the fantasy.
A Ban on D-SLR Bans
Tuesday, November 30, 2010
I’m instituting a ban on reporting about ridiculously improbably D-SLR bans. I hate to say "I told you so," especially because I didn’t. But when I first read about the ban of D-SLR cameras in Kuwait it seemed to crazy to be true. I suppose the best news usually is, but still—it just seemed like the kind of improbable story that spreads like wildfire before anyone’s ever considered whether or not its true. It was the talk of the town, er, the photo-blogosphere, all week. And now, finally, comes the truth: it ain’t real. Read all about it, especially the part where the Kuwait Times printed a retraction of the original story, at The Online Photographer.
Enter The Nat Geo Photo Contest Asap
Monday, November 29, 2010
Hurry up! Tomorrow is the last day to enter the 2010 National Geographic Photo Contest. Submit your best people, places and nature shots for a chance to win $10,000 and a trip to Washington D.C. for the National Geographic Seminar in January. After you’ve entered, head over to the Boston Globe’s Big Picture blog to check out a gallery of last year's best photos courtesy of the magazine and the photographers who entered. It’s really an awesome assortment of images. I particularly like, well, just about all of them. Great portraits, great macro insect shots, grand vistas, touching moments... It’s an amazing collection that’s most definitely worth a look.
Coffee Cup White Balance
Friday, November 26, 2010
Did you know you can use a coffee cup for white balance? No, not by photographing the white cup and setting a custom white balance based off of it (though that might work too, actually). I’m talking about using the translucent white disposable coffee lid that’s ubiquitous at every coffee shop everywhere. Simply stuff the lid into your lens shade and it acts like one of those fancy Expodisc white balance tools. It may not be perfect, or quite as precise as the real thing, but it sure is cost effective.