Entries in SB-800 (5)
I have a long relationship with VIP EYE Care in St. Petersburg. They have been both my source of eye care and also a loyal photography client (see here). My lastest photography assignment for them was photographing their 2012 Customer Appreciation Celebration event.
I roamed around photographing candids of customers checking out all the fashionable eyeglass frame choices. I learned that choosing a new pair of glasses is quite an involved decision. In fact, I saw several people looking whan I arrived at 6pm and only finally decided just before I left at 8pm!
I also started to pick up on some insider jargon, always something I like to do. There are letter and number code names for specific lens shapes. Not surprisingly, new designs are carefully kept secret I also heard from one vendor.
Even a baby got to try on some new shades during the celebratory event. I am very thankful for the continued business from VIP Eye Care and highly recommend Dr. Henri if you are looking for a very good eye doctor.
Photographing Isabella at her First Communion Celebration at the Don Cesar in St. Petersburg, Florida was a lot of fun and allowed me to make what I am sure will be one of my ten best images of the year (above). Last week it was my pleasure to have two returning clients within a few days of each other. I really appreciate clients who continue to choose me as their photographer, and from a shooting standpoint, it is great to have that already existing familiarity with the client. This time, however, instead of just shooting Vanessa during one of her professional flamenco dancing performances (dance 1, dance 2), as mentioned above I was able to photograph her daughter Isabella and the rest of her family as well.
The Don Cesar is a great location to shoot at, although at the time of the event (12:30pm to 1:30pm) the midday Florida sunshine was as it always is, harsh and unforgiving to photography. Further, to keep things simple and quick for the girls in the photo I used only a single speedlight (SB-800) with a diffuser cap on a light stand to make these shots. Can you spot the ones that were made in direct sunlight and the ones that were made in the shade?
Vanessa wanted a photo of the back of Isabella's pretty dress so I tried to make it a kind of model shot by having Isabelle look back at me over her shoulder. I composed the shot to use the curb as a leading line along with the railing choosing to have more foreground than blue sky background.
The above shot was a rather tricky one to execute, that took quite a few takes, but I am glad we stuck with it and made the photo exactly as I previsualized. First, Isabelle was standing in complete shade while most of the background was in strong sunlight. I again used just my single speedlight to put light onto the subject and adjusted my shutter speed to expose the blue sky in the background. A little Photoshop dodging helped balance out the foreground. Then it was just a matter of capturing Isabelle spinning exactly centered between the two columns with her dress flowing in a good look. As I mentioned, a tricky shot, but it turned out better than I thought as Isabelle appears to be still herself while her dress has the appearance of motion creating an unusually dynamic visual.
This photograph is one of my favorite kind to make incorporating a veil in the wind (actually held up by her mom out of frame, shh!) and the subject looking into the distance with a contemplative look. I asked Isabelle to look to her right and think of her future. The result is the above image. This photograph paired with the top image in this post cover a wide range of emotion that I hope Isabelle and Vanessa and the rest of her family will find valuable when they look back at these photos in 10, 20 years from now. I want Isabelle to wonder what she was thinking at that moment. I wonder if she will be able to remember . . .
Photography is mostly about observing. To be a good observer, I believe one needs to practice silence in mind and body. The seashells featured in this photo story would not found along a quiet beach where I was taking a contemplative stroll. They were, in fact, found in the middle of the chaos of my neighborhood dog park, but since my mind was silent, I was able to observe them.
By the newly installed water station there is a ring of seashells, not crushed, but small and mostly whole. As I pushed the nozzle to let Kiki drink, I observed this unusual fact. Mostly one finds crushed seashells used in landscaping purposes so to see a bed of intact seashells surprised me. You have to bend over quite a bit to trigger the water flow allowing me to notice the details in the shells. I thought to myself, "I will take a few home to make macro photographs of."
It fascinates me to think that such objects once resided untold miles away at untold depths in the sea. Where were they from? How old are they? Of all places they end up in a dog park, albeit one very close to the sea. In fact, you can see a part of Tampa Bay from the park. Now these seashells have journeyed a few more miles to inside my apartment. They have felt air conditioning. However, I shall return them shortly to the dog park and their water fountain resting place.
PHOTOGRAPHY TIP: always be observing, and you will always be improving your photography
If you would like to photograph a subject on a black background, you do not need to have an actual black background to achieve this. Using strobist skills and manual settings on your DSLR you can create a black background almost magically. I set these flowers on a small table in the middle of my living room. It was 1:21pm on a sunny afternoon with the blinds closed on both windows, but a lot of light was still filtering through. I setup a reflective umbrella (a softbox would work even better) to the left of the flowers with a Nikon SB-800 Speedlight. It took some fiddling to make sure none of the light from the umbrella splashed onto any of the walls, which made them visible in the shot. The same goes for getting the settings on my DSLR to produce the results I wanted. In the end I was able to achieve what I wanted, just the light from the speedlight exposing my subject with the ambient light in the room eliminated due to the small aperture and fast shutter speed settings.
How to create a black background:
- setup the subject in a room with as much distance from the walls as possible
- setup a speedlight to left or right of subject with umbrella/softbox/other light modifier
- start with f/16 and 1/200th & adjust from there as necessary (ISO should be at lowest setting)
Thank you to Bill Gracey and his great flickr photostream for the inspiration for this shot. Be sure and visit his extensive gallery of strobe lit plants.
Try this at home and be sure and post a link to your results in the comments below. If you would like to learn how to make photographs like this first hand, I offer 1-on-1 DSLR Photography Lessons in and around the St. Petersburg area. Reserve your lesson today!
Stuart was interested in a very specific DSLR photography lesson -- how to take "before & after" headshots of his customers in his salon (website). This very specific photographic need actually makes the lesson easier for me to teach in a way because the student and I can concentrate on just the settings needed for the type of shot he wants. Since he has his own salon with consistent lighting, it was just a matter of finding a spot with a clean background and getting our off camera flash settings dialed in.
Right now Stuart just has a Canon XT with the standard 18-55mm kit lens. In the photo above I set him up with my Nikon SB-800 Speedlight, light stand and Yongnuo radio remote triggers (which allows a Canon camera to use a Nikon speedlight). However, we started out just doing natural light, then his built-in pop-up flash, then simulating the speedlight being hotshoe mounted, and then finally true strobist style. Of course the best results were produced using the strobist (off camera flash) method.
For the lesson Stuart's pal Jackie was our willing model. In addition to teaching Stuart strobist techniques, I also helped him to pose the model (Jackie) for best impact and lighting, as well on how to best frame a shot in the limited shooting space of the salon. I recommended a tight composition to eliminate the need to later crop the image and to eliminate what I call intruders (like those brushes on the wall) messing up the clean background.
It was nice to have a lesson in air conditioning and fun to meet Jackie and Stuart. Once Stuart gets his own speedlight, we will meet again for another lesson.