January 7, 2013
shooting solo with off-camera flash
Yup, that’s me all crouching tiger there with a camera and an off-camera flash setup. I had planned on photographing Jessica Joy in the studio while she was here, but since she’d never been to New York before, we had to make a trip in. I wanted to do a few sequences on location in Manhattan.
The ethos and approach of The Sartorialist, has fascinated me ever since I became aware of his blog. Working in a very simple way with just a camera and an 85mm lens, he captures people on the street, showing the way they decide to clothe themselves for public view. Anyone can be his subject, from the most Fashion conscious to blue-collar laborers. Here is the Youtube clip that tells you more about the way he works.
I’ve taken some of this in how I photograph models on location. Obviously more controlled and directed than approaching and photographing strangers on the street. Still, it’s been an influence on me.
Making a day-trip out of it to New York with Jessica, I thought I’d keep this way of shooting as a direction to myself. I also knew I’d like to use off-camera flash. It gets dark very quickly in wintertime, and the shaded side of buildings can be in a deep gloom. Off-camera flash would help! But the person who I had arranged with to come along and help, had an unforeseen crisis and contacted me the night before, to tell me he couldn’t make it. So I had to plan how I’d best go about this solo.
November 28, 2011
the flow of a photo session
Laura and Todd is a couple whose wedding I’m photographing next year. We met up last weekend in Manhattan for the engagement photo session. I really like doing these because it gives the photographer a chance to connect with the couple before the wedding, and get an idea of what kind of rhythm would be possible in photographing them.
In the recent article, turning day into night, I described the thought-process of a photo sequence. Starting with an idea, we worked up to a photo that looked impressive. So that entails a few test shots, including one to show the couple what we’re trying to achieve. Then we finesse it.
That’s the usual process when coming up with ideas – it’s a succession of photos, changing things up a bit until we have a few images that look really good and show the couple at their best.
But sometimes, the idea doesn’t work …
November 24, 2011
finding that photo opportunity
We stumbled upon this opportunity for this portrait of Jessica, my infamous assistant with an attitude. The reception room for a wedding we were photographing had several large boxes of lights against the walls as a kind of light mural, with baubles inside that were lit up. And the back of each of these displays was a mirror …
November 14, 2011
wedding photography – when technique, style & choice of equipment converge
With Manhattan as a back-drop, I wanted a cinematic look for the photograph of Nima and Peter. A magnificent view behind them as they snuggle in. While I approach wedding photography with my eye on telling the story of the day, for me, where a photographer really reveals a specific style, is in the portraits of the bride and groom.
I wanted a romantic look to this sequence of images, so there were specific choices to be made in terms of equipment, camera settings and the lighting. So let’s run through the thought-process.
October 17, 2011
camera settings: 1/50 @ f8 @ 800 ISO … lens zoomed to 35mm; available light
shooting promotional photos for a band
Anyone who knows me well is probably very aware that my first true love is music. I live my life to a music soundtrack. There’s always music playing. Not the radio, but music of my own choice. I love music … however, my sense of rhythm isn’t all that it should’ve been for me to be a natural muso. But still, I love music. All of which meant that one few non-negotiable rules for my daughter was that she had to take music lessons. So she plays bari sax in the high-school’s Jazz band, and she’s also been taking guitar lessons for a few years now with a guitar teacher, Gerard.
All of which brings us to this photo session – promotional photos of Gerard’s band. That is Gerard (right) and Ed (center : piano) and Joe (left : guitar). I met up this weekend with them in Hoboken. Perfect for the urban feel to the photos. Hanging out with them for a few hours coming up with ideas and places for photos, was great fun. The camaraderie between them will be familiar to anyone who has ever played in a band. You connect. That all too short time I played tenor sax in a rock band back in South Africa circa 1999, just before we emigrated to the USA, was one of the best times in my life. But I digress. It was cool to hang out with these three musicians for the afternoon.
Here are some of my favorite images, with some details …
August 18, 2011
wedding photography – developing a personal style
I’ve been mulling a while now over a question someone asked me about how long I think it took to develop a personal style in photography.
“What does it take, and how many years do you think it generally takes a photographer to develop their own personal style, meaning, you can look at a photograph and know who took it. Not everyone would know, but some people could tell it’s your style. I think very few photographers actually have their own style and I’m curious what you think it took to get there.”
How long do I think it takes? A life-time. But that’s too glib an answer, even though I think it is a never-ending journey as a photographer – honing your style along with your technique, understanding and skill. So how does one develop a personal style in photography?
July 20, 2011
to use available light is not a random thing
Since I often use flash or additional light, there was some surprise in the (favorable) comments in the Facebook album when I mentioned this photo was shot without any flash. Not even fill-flash. Just the available light. But where I posed the bride, was a specific decision. It wasn’t just random.
Now, I often get the feeling that when someone boasts they only use available light, that it is meant to disguise that they don’t know how to use additional lighting. My thought here is that unless you find yourself in great light, or alternately position your subject so that the light works in your favor … you’re very likely to find that the available light just isn’t as flattering as it could be. Ultimately, this comes down to the point that using light – whether found (ambient) light, or light added by the photographer – is best as a conscious decision by the photographer.
July 3, 2011
inspiration from movies – a visual feast for photographers
It would be a rare photographer – in a fact a rare person – who isn’t fascinated by other forms of art, whether music, dance, various visual arts, architecture and everything we surround ourselves with. I just can’t imagine a photographer not finding inspiration specifically in other visual art forms, whether cartoons & graphic novels, all the way to the classic painters … and of course, movies.
Last night we watched Micmacs, another of the surreal hyper-kinetic movies by director Jean-Pierre Jeunet. Every frame of that movie is a beautifully composed. A work of art. Afterwards I felt that push again that I need to be more creative with my photography.
Micmacs was released in 2010, but before investigating that movie, I’d have to urge you to first watch Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s masterpiece – Amelie.
The screen-capture at the top is from Amelie. No words can quite describe what a joy ride of a movie it is. Emotionally over-powering. Exhilirating! With that, I’d also like to mention 10 other movies, all personal favorites, that are visual feasts for photographers …
June 29, 2011
using on-camera bounce flash outdoors
With wedding photography, when doing the night-time romantic portraits of the couple, the pressure is usually on. The only opportunity to whisk the couple away for a few minutes, is during dinner time, when the party is at a lull. The pressure is on because you have even less time than you had during the earlier part of the day, and you also don’t want to lose the attention of your couple who wants to get back to their guests at the reception.
I usually scout a few places before-hand, getting a clear idea of what I want. When setting out with the couple, I rely on bounce flash and on video light. There is rarely time for carrying around a soft-box. You need to move fast, set up fast … and still come up with the goods.
With this wedding from the past weekend, I wanted to capture two specific portraits of the couple with the outside of the venue as a backdrop. I would normally have used video light here, but I had the idea that I wanted the compression from a longer lens … the 70-200mm f2.8 … and then the person holding the video light would be in shot. So the solution was to get flash in there. Where we were working outside there, I fortunately had part of the building to bounce my flash off.
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June 14, 2011
using flash in an incandescent / tungsten environment
I have used this photograph several times in the past to illustrate various aspects of flash photography in low light, so it might be time to discuss this image more thoroughly.
We’ll also pull together a few other topics and see how it all comes together at this one point:
- dragging the shutter,
- gelling your flash,
- bounce flash technique,
- direction of light,
- the advantage of using TTL flash,
- working alongside a videographer