Above is a behind the scenes video for a fairy-tale themed photograph I took of my red Ford Focus (2011, Titanium). The video explains how I turned the Little Red Riding Hood idea into an image, from the two-hour shoot with Olivier Kerschen to the six-hour editing process in Lightroom and Photoshop. The two photographs below show an unedited picture with nothing but ambient light and the final edited image.
The same video is also available in Luxembourgish.
Chris Willmott asked me for a casino-themed shoot before I was going to leave the UK. The School of Drama building at the University of Kent had recently been finished and provided a fairly modern setting that would work, seeing as I didn’t really want to go through the whole logistics of working in an actual casino. So, thanks to the university for letting me shoot there.
The photographs ended up somewhere between the styles of James Bond and Gambit. I used Speedlights and PocketWizards to set the mood in terms of lighting, playing around with gels to get some colour contrast and get away from the boring fluorescent light.
The post-processing was a challenge for me. For two of the photographs we wanted the cards to be in mid-air. Getting it all done in-camera turned out really difficult, so I decided that I’d place the cards later on in Photoshop. Thus I ventured forth into Photoshop’s 3D world :) I hope the results look somewhat realistic.
The Christmas holidays have started for me today. With a little bit of time on my hands before my friends from the UK arrive in Luxembourg, I went to the Prënzebierg in Pétange this afternoon. Shooting snow-covered landscapes has always been a bit of a challenge for me. With all the snow, pictures usually turn out grey and it’s difficult to get a decent composition going. I decided to try whether adding a bit of strobist gear would help. I also finally got around to trying the AC3 together with my PocketWizards. It came in very handy to control the manual power levels of the flash directly from the camera.
I’m not sure I want to do this again though, even water-resistant gear can only take so much molten snow…
I met Savio while I worked in P&T’s Téléboutique in Luxembourg city – my summer job for the last couple of years. I think he saw the slideshow from Martine and Mike’s wedding and showed them to Julie. They asked if I could take photos at their wedding, and once my schedule for my MA last summer had taken shape I could confirm that I’d be able to cover one last wedding during my time as a student – theirs.
Once more I asked Olivier to help me out as assistant and second shooter, and he did a great job. We started the day at Julie’s parents’ in Thionville. From there it was but a short drive to the lovely neo-apostolic church where they got married. This was the first non-catholic wedding that I’ve covered so I checked with the priest to make sure I’d be aware of the differences. After the moving service, a limousine picked up the newly-weds. We drove to Mondorf-les-Bains: the reception and the dinner were held at the Orangerie in the park. Having everything in one place like that made logistics a bit easier and meant that we could spend a bit more time for the couple photos.
In terms of lighting, I made use of the technique I first tried at the Southlands Beach Fashion Shoot, namely pushing three Speedlights to full power, and using the PocketWizards to sync at 1/500,double the 5DMkII sync speed. That way I got enough light to work in bright daylight (we had wonderful weather) without being at the sun’s mercy. The PocketWizards also came in handy for one of my favourite photos from the shoot (the one next to the river), where I was about 40 metres away from Savio and Julie, and the PWs together with the 3 flashes gave me both enough working distance (for composition) and brightness from the softbox which was about 4 metres away from them.
During the evening I gave Olivier one of the transceivers so that we could both trigger the flashes that we had set up in the Orangerie to support the ambient light. The reception and dinner were very entertaining. I’m glad that I was at the right place at the right time when Savio’s friends spontaneously decided to lift him off the ground :) During the dances I used a technique I learned from David Ziser: get one slaved flash behind the couple to create both a nice rim and some cool lighting on the floor. Olivier had to put some effort into that, since he had to be in the frame without showing up on the pictures.
I had a really great time at the wedding, and I hope I captured the ambience in the photographs! That was probably the last wedding I’ll cover. My time as a student is up and I’m moving on.
- MediaStorm have posted their newest collection of projects worth watching.
- FStoppers photographer Lee Morris pulled off an entire fashion shoot with his iPhone 3Gs and got some impressive results.
- Tom A. Warner created a very cool video of lightning bolts in slow motion – 9000 fps!
- On photogen.lu I’ve started a list of camera stores in and around Luxembourg. It’s far from complete but you might want to bookmark it for the next time you plan to buy a camera.
- Strobist has blogged about the neat Strobox iPhone app, which allows you to draw lighting diagrams on the go.
- Adelene Enersen has created a lovely series of baby photographs, in which she imagines what her daughter Mila dreams about when she takes a nap.
- EOS Camera Movie Record allows you to capture 720p video on Canon cameras that have LiveView, like my trusty 40D, for instance.
[Update: Some people have asked about the editing of the 'splash' photo, so I've uploaded the original for comparison.]
I really liked Southlands Beach which Alison showed me when we were in Bermuda. I had a Fashion photography competition that I wanted to participate in while we were there, so I asked Alison to play the ‘local’ card and get in touch with one of the models she’s worked with before, Stephanie Wilkinson.
For most of the photographs I used three flashes. Two were used together with a shoot-through umbrella which Alison held on to to avoid it falling over. The third flash was used on its own as a kicker or sidelight and was safe on a tripod. Or so I thought.
The shoot went really great – until we got to the final location. The wind blew over the tripod with one of my flashes and a PocketWizard. The hotshoe foot of the latter snapped off, so tomorrow I’ll have to head over to the Flash Centre in London to get a replacement foot (they said they can fix it in time for my Eurostar to Luxembourg in the evening if I drop it off in the afternoon).
Sod’s law. I think I got quite lucky for the rest of the shoot anyway. The forecast had announced rain but it stayed dry, I got way too close to stepping on a Portuguese Man o’ War, and the light levels were just on the sweet spot for me to make use of the flashes at full power and a 1/500 sync speed whilst keeping a shallow depth of field.
Two recent self portraits that I shot for the Camera Bag and Boats II contests over at dpchallenge.com. No need to worry though, I still prefer being behind the camera rather than in front of it.
For the cathedral shot I placed the 5DII with the Peleng 8mm fisheye at the bottom of the camera bag and used PocketWizards to trigger two flashes, one below the lens in the middle and one to the right (you can still see the bright diffusor panel). For the pirate shot I used Canon’s ETTL system to trigger a 580EX in a softbox over the camera and a 430EX in some ziplog bags under water.
One of the recent challenges over on DPChallenge was ‘Rejected Movie Posters‘. I came up with this parody of the Iron Man movie. The slides below should give you an idea of the process from the first concept ‘drawing’ to the final image.
I took the picture in a living room. Not much space, otherwise the lights would have been further away. I used to flashes with barn doors for the rim light, and two lights with umbrellas as side lights. My Iron Man, Aaron, had to balance on the ironing board I borrowed from my flat and which was propped up on a couple of pillows.
The background I ended up using was made in Photoshop using the Clouds Pixelate/Mezzotint and Radial Blur/Zoom filters. The bigger streaks are from a separate image I made with some christmas lights – I zoomed in during the exposure to create straks. The font used for the title is CGF Arch Reactor with a starting sand/soil texture from CG Textures.
A couple of photographers from the Photogen community decided to meet up in Luxembourg City on the evening of May 1st for a ‘nightwalk’. Since I happened to be in Luxembourg that week rather than when my volcano-free schedule had planned, I drove up to the Kirchberg to join the others: -Kiischtii-, deBaemm, m-otiv, MB-Photos, McQueen, and Mexx. (Mouseover the photos to see the who’s-who in the captions.) We walked from the LuxExpo down to the Philharmonie, where Ben took a great group photo of us, using the combined light power of 4 PocketWizards, 2 580EXs, 1 430EX and 2 SB900s.
Some of us wanted to go see Iron Man 2 after the get-together, and with only 20 minutes to go before the screening, we realized that we had covered quite a distance on the way down from Utopolis. Doesn’t feel like it when you can just drive the distance in a car! Oh, Iron Man was crap by the way. But at least it inspired me to take another photograph, which I’ll blog about next week.
The Photography and Modelling Society organized a 50s themed photoshoot in Keynes college at the University of Kent last month. I’m not sure if the clothing styles the models came up with all matched that exact time span, but let’s say it was all ‘Vintage’ to give the whole thing a coherent style.
The shoot was a bit of a challenge because there were about 20 people, both photographers and models, in a fairly small common room stuffed with tables and sofas. Without much space I made use of superclamps and magic arms to get my lights where I needed them to be.
The last image isn’t me, by the way, it’s this year’s (well, last year’s, since the elections were right after the shoot) Photography President Mikey, shooting Bert Stephani style with reflectors to shape the light from his main flash.
The editing is based on Matt Kloskowski’s ‘Ralph Lauren’ Lightroom preset which I adapted to my own needs. After that, some Photoshop to clean up the place: I mainly got rid of some stains on the floor and fix scratches in the leather.
Thanks to my models, Pulo, Laura, Solenne, Nicola, Chris and Rachel!
The second season of the DPChallenge Photography Leage started this week over at DPC and I decided to submit a warm-up entry before the season begins to get back into the game – I haven’t taken part in the site’s competitions for a while. I decided to shoot something for the Out of the Ordinary challenge.
I’m staying with Alison in Bermuda at the moment. (My flight was meant to leave 4 hours ago but with the airspace around the UK being closed for some foreseeable time I’m not going anywhere soon.) We borrowed some furniture from her house and drove to Warwick Long Bay. We set the things up where I thought we’d get a wave washing over them once in a while. Turns out that for a long time the only wave that would make it that far was the one that got my feet wet when we set up…
In order to make the lamp light up I placed a Canon Speedlite 580EXII inside the lamp head. I had taken out the bulb earlier. My initial plans to keep it there with a superclamp didn’t work out because there was not enough room inside the lampshade. So I kept the flash and the Pocketwizard FlexTT5 that was attached to it in place with a ball bungee. A Full C.T.O. gel gave the flash the colour temperature of a tungsten lamp. The flash was set to ETTL, I let the camera do the metering for the lamp, which was easier since my aperture, shutter speed and ISO kept changing as it got progressively darker after sunset. The settings for this photo were f/4, ISO400, 1/30. I also asked Alison to point a snooted flash at the plant to give it a bit of extra definition.
- Shoot-out: “What do you get when you challenge David Hobby, Zack Arias and Joey L to make an image of a surprise model(s) in 25mins in a packed auditorium.” A fun video, spiced up with comments by Joe McNally.
- BBC Wildlife Photography Masterclasses. The BBC has published a series of wildlife photography classes online, filled with a wealth of info.
- Greg du Toit takes the meaning of endurance to a new level: he spent months in a puddle to get some breathtaking phots of wildlife animals at their water hole.
- DIY rain cover. diyphotography.net has a how-to on turning a pair of old rain trousers into a protective cover that protects your camera from the elements.
- LADIG have put together a nice and easy bounce card to use with external flashes. I think I prefer this design to the one by Gardner which I’ve used so far, mainly because this one does away with the need for velcro at the top end.
- CS5 Sneak Peek: Adobe has posted a YouTube preview of a new feature for Ps CS5: content-aware fill. Looks very useful for photo manipulation.
Meet Zazu, Alison’s African Grey parrot. She’s a crazy one. (Zazu, not Alison.) When I took this photo, Zazu was about three months old. You may already have seen this photo in my PAD collection, but I wanted to show you a bit of behind the scenes information from when I took this. The setup shot below should give you a pretty good idea of how I managed to light Zazu in her ‘natural habitat’.
So, first of all, for Zazu to be sitting somewhere outside her cage with not too much clutter around her, I first set up a lightstand with a superclamp, which in turn held one of her perches in place. To keep her occupied we let her play with a pen top, one of her favourite toys.
The lights are all triggered using Canon’s ETTL system. An on-camera ST-E2 sent out the signal to the slaves, which were all set to manual mode. The lights on the left and right in the back are 430EX Speedlights with my DIY snoots on them. (The snoots are cookie boxes lined with gaffer tape.) The snoots shape the light into a tight beam, to reduce flare to a minimum and to avoid the light bouncing around the room.
The softbox on the left is the Westcott Apollo set with a 580EX inside it. It’s rotated towards the camera so as to avoid it spilling light onto the wall in the backround. On the table on the right side is another 580EX. This one is flagged by a tissue box (whatever comes handy, really!) and I put a CTB gel on it in order to end up with a strong blue background. I also didn’t want the background to be homogenous, so I placed a basil plant in front of the light. The shadows from the plant add a bit of interest to the background.
Oh and the white thing floating at the top of the image which Zazu is staring at in the setup shot is an origami crane. She has since taken care of it.
Alison and I made a trip to the butterfly garden in Grevenmacher. This time the temperature was a bit more comfortable than the 40°C in the World of Butterflies. We only had one macro lens between the two of us so we took turns in photographing and holding a flash for one another. We started out with the ringlight adapter but moved on to a DIY diffuser to light the butterflies. It’s quite useful to be able to sculpt the light the way you need it to be rather than being at the mercy of the sun shining through a glass roof and foliage. I used the Pocketwizard Mini TT1 and Flex TT5 to allow the camera and flash to communicate with one another. Setting the flash power manually would have been tricky, since we worked without tripods. At those small distances, a few centimeters change in the distance between flash and subject can make a big difference. (Inverse square law: if the flash is giving me a correct exposure at 1/8 power and 10cm distance, if the flash moves 5cm closer the power needs to change to 1/32. ETTL takes care of this on the fly.)
So my technique here is to get the aperture I need for a decent depth of field, then dialing in a shutter speed and ISO that get me enough ambient light for a photo that’s slightly underexposed, then bring in the flash to get the exposure to where it needs to be.
(For those wondering what the title means: it’s one of the Luxembourgian words for butterfly.)
A bit of behind the scenes information about my PAD for September 16th 2009. The initial concept for the picture was to have a hand come out of a suitcase, and to add some visual drama by putting a lightsource inside the suitcase too.
I placed one of my flashes inside the suitcase. Because I wanted the light to spread as evenly as possible, I placed the flash inside a clear plastic tube (the ones you get when you buy 100 DVD-Rs together… I burn every RAW file I might ever need to get back to on DVD. Twice.) Since the lid would be closed, Canon’s ETTL triggerism functionality wouldn’t work here – it needs line of sight. A perfect opportunity for my new PocketWizard set then. The flash and the FlexTT5 fitted inside the tube easily. A stofen omnibounce-type diffuser spread the light out a bit more. The settings on this flash were 32mm at 1/2 power.
The flash on the Manfrotto Nano 005B lightstand, which provides the light outside the suitcase is still triggered via Canon’s ETTL. It’s zoomed in to 100mm, at 1/2 +0,7 power. A full CTB (Color Temperature Blue) gives the light a blue cast that contrasts with the neutral light from the suitcase. To limit the area lit by this flash to a small surface, I added a DIY straw snoot to it. That way the beam behaves more like a spotlight.
I took one picture with just the suitcase, and another with the same settings (Canon 5DMkII, ISO100, f/9, 1/200) where my sister put her arm in from one side and out at the front again.
In Photoshop I layered the two photos over each other. Now all I had to do was mask Carmen out of the photo so that only her hand would remain visible.
Happy 2010 guys, and thanks for stopping by the blog. I’ll post a collection of my favourite photos of 2009 soon.
In between revising for my upcoming university exams there remains some time for photography. During my stay in Luxembourg I met up with photographer John Oesch for a shooting with model Kimberley at the Abbaye Neumünster. From there I went on to take the first photograph shown above, which I entered in the Photogen competition ‘Luxembourg City’. A bit later I continued for an exploration of the Kirchberg area.
Before the Easter holidays the Photography and Modeling society met up for a last shooting session. We started in the Cathedral Cloisters where the basics of flash photography and balancing it with ambient light were covered. I lent my camera to someone else so I have no pictures of that part. After a delicious Sunday lunch in the Dolphin we decided to take some group shots in the nearby park area as well as the pictures of Charlotte in the daffodils. For the eTTL adepts out there I’m happy to report that the 430EXs had no trouble picking up the master signal from the 580EX in broad sunlight from about 15 metres.
These are some older pictures from a shooting with Cazz Walker in the University of Kent Library. The shooting was aimed at the DPChallenge.com photo contest ‘Books Smarts’ where the first picture posted here got second place. There’s something in this photo that adds further interest to it for me. The half a dozen black volumes in the upper right hand corner are copies of Bennett and Royle’s Introduction to Critical Theory, a work that has simplified and simultaneously complicated my life as student of English and American Literature for some years now.
For the copyrigth part of this UNESCO organized international day, this may be a good point to explain why all of my new images that ever see the internet, and most others, are watermarked. One reason is that some of my pictures have been taken from this website and different photo communities and have re-appeared on sites with a somewhat dubitable reputation. Other instances include publicity managers ‘forgetting’ about the payment part of non-use agreements, or even big organizations like the ‘Lëtzebuerger Guiden an Scouten’ printing a book with one of my photographs on its cover without asking permission or giving credit.
So, yes, the watermarks are a necessary evil. It doesn’t make the images theft-proof, but makes stealing them more difficult. [Rant over.]