studio photography – my favorite light modifier: Profoto 5.0′ RFi Octa Softbox

It was exciting when I equipped my studio last year with a variety of lighting gear – so much to choose from. A little kid in the toy store! I want everything. The decision obviously has to be made between various lighting items that are only slight changes from other, with little real world difference. And then there ia also lighting gear that is quite esoteric.

I chose various gridded stripboxes and reflectors, in addition to the soft boxes and beauty dish that I had. Then I had my eye on an octabank – specifically the large Profoto 5.0′ RFi Octa Softbox (vendor). When I first unfurled that thing in my studio, my reaction was, “holy crap, this is huge!”. My studio is 1000 sq ft, which is large, but you know, that’s also not that large. I was wondering if I should just return this to the camera store, and whether my 3×4 soft box would suffice.

Then I started using the 5′ Octa soft box, and something clicked for me – one more thing fell into place for me in my understanding of light. My reaction turned from that perplexed, “holy crap!”, into a “holy smackeroni!” when I realized that the 5′ Octa is probably the single most versatile piece of lighting gear in my studio!

Learn more inside…

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Tilo Gockel’s photography on his website and in the Strobist FB group, always impresses. He is always pushing his own boundaries, coming up with images that surprise. From photograph of models, to the latest – product photography that excels. Tilo was kind enough to expand on the image, and explain how he set it up.

 

Product Photography – Diver’s Chronograph

a guest post by  Tilo ~Gallo~ Gockel

Hi everyone, I feel very honored that Neil invited me again to write a guest post for the famous Tangents blog. So here we go, and I hope you’ll enjoy it!

I like shooting small objects and I like to try to make them look fresh and cool. Usually, something with flares, blur and backlight and lots of bokeh bubbles is the outcome. :-)

The Idea for “Diver’s Chronograph”
For the watch at hand I thought about a setup, that would deliver a shot that really sparkles, and I knew––from other experiments––that water splashes, frozen via flash and shot with a wide aperture, can look really interesting. For a nice basis I collected some stones from a near railway track (don’t tell them) and arranged them on a board on our bathtub. To get a dark background, I added some dark pieces of foam rubber and a darkblue blanket.

Learn more inside…

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screen protectors for your camera’s LCD

I try not to bang my equipment around, but there’s also a limit to how ultra-careful you can be with your gear. A number of years ago – actually, decades – I knew a keen photographer who had top-end everything. He had swapped out his mint Nikon F4 for a mint Canon EOS-1n. He kept his cameras and lenses mint by not using them much, and keeping them wrapped in chamois. But that’s the sad part to this story – he rarely used his gear.

Especially now with digital photography where your camera is essentially a computer with a lens – it really depreciates fast. You have to get your cameras out and use them. Get your money’s worth in awesome photos. But, I do like my equipment to work problem-free, and cosmetically not look like they’ve been through a war-zone. Well, that’s aside from my speedlights. My speedlights work hard.

To stop my camera LCDs  from scratching from normal use, or rubbing against my clothes when I hang the camera strap over my shoulder, I use Expert Shield screen protectors. And that’s what I’m showing in the photo above … although, you can’t really see it. But that’s the point – they fit so well.

The Expert Shield screen protectors (B&H) fits snugly on the LCD without needing to be cut or trimmed, because you can order them for your specific camera. Sweet! No struggle. They are also fairly easy to put into place without those annoying bubbles appearing underneath.

You can order these screen protectors from expert shield screen protectors from Amazon;
or directly from the manufacturer as well. Their site has a lot more info on them.
Expert Shield (USA)  /  Expert Shield (UK)

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review: high-ISO performance Nikon D4S vs D4 / D3s / D610 / D700

Judging image quality between different cameras, is most often quite subjective when we have equal glass with each camera. The reason for this is that the pixel count has an effect. For example, how do you compare the high-ISO noise performance of the 36 megapixel D800 vs the 12 megapixel D3? You can’t just simply zoom in to 100% and go by that. You would have to print to a specific size, or at least down-size the D800 image to 12 megapixels to fairly evaluate the images. So there’s a bit of a murky area here in fairly comparing cameras of different sensor sizes.

We now have a new King of awesomely awesome high-ISO noise performance – the Nikon D4s (Amazon). I posted one image in the review of the Nikon D4S auto-focus / AF performance, which was shot at 8000 ISO. In my opinion it looked remarkable.

So how does the Nikon D4s high-ISO noise compare to the other Nikon cameras? Well, I chickened out here. Instead of doing comparison photos and then processing them the same, and figuring out some kind of baseline in terms of image size, etc etc … I wimped out. I’m giving you the high-ISO RAW files, shot from 800 ISO and up, for various cameras. Download them from that link via a right-click and save-as.

Learn more inside…

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photographers – becoming more confident in posing people

How to confidently pose people for portraits, is likely as big a challenge for new photographers, as how to use light. Even a model as professional and inventive as Ulorin Vex has told me that one of her biggest frustrations with photographers is when the photographer expects her to drive the shoot, and pose herself and come up with ideas. So yes, even when working with professional models, you need to guide them.

For me, the first step in becoming more confident in posing people was to practice. And practice by posing yourself while looking in a mirror ), and figuring out what looks good as a pose, and what just looks clumsy.

But the break-through realization for me was that as a photographer, the people that I am photographing, gave me permission to pose them. It’s not an intrusion to (gently) pose people so that they look good in front of the camera. Somehow, it had to eventually dawn on me that I have their permission. I don’t have to be shy and wonder if I should. In fact, I have to pose people when photographing their portraits.

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update: new gear for flash photography workshop

The material covered, and the gear used in the on-location flash photography workshops, are constantly being fine-tuned and adapted with each workshop. With the first workshops (around 2006) centered around bounce flash photography. Over time the workshops expanded from that fairly simple premise, into what is a more comprehensive on-location lighting course.

The past two years there has been a surge in the various brands and types of flash. For example, Canon used to be just the 580 speedlights and wireless system. There’s now the 600EX speedlights with built-in radio transmitters as well. Phottix and Yongnou have become strong contenders in the field of flash photography with their speedlights and wireless systems.

When the workshops were presented across the country and in New York, there was a restriction – I had to travel light, and had to pare down on the gear I could bring. This meant that for the off-camera flash portion of the workshop, I could most easily help the Nikon and Canon shooters, and use their respective wireless control via RadioPoppers.

Now that the workshops are presented at my studio in New Jersey, and with a smaller class, I could make the big step and see if I could accommodate everyone at every workshop, regardless of system. With two models, it does mean doubling up on speedlights and systems. So I had a look around for soft boxes that would allow two speedlights … and still allow access to the speedlight controls from outside.

The Profoto RFi Speedring for dual speedlights (vendor), looked like the best candidate – rugged (which means it is heavy), and it easily allows two speedlights. The two speedlights could be of different size and use different radio systems. I purchased two of these Profoto RFi Speedrings for dual speedlights (vendor), and two of these medium-sized Profoto 1.3′ x 2′ softbox (vendor). This means that with the flash photography workshops, we can accommodate up to 4 different flash systems simultaneously!

We can now more easily help photographers who prefer hardcore strobist manual-only flash, or Phottix or Yongnuo, or either of the two Canon options or Nikon, or Sony, or Pentax. Alternately, we can double up, or have a Nikon and Canon speedlight in each of the two soft boxes. More flexibility.

So if you’ve been considering attending a workshop, but don’t use Nikon or Canon speedlights, we can now easily help you with whatever challenges you have with off-camera flash photography.

There will be two more workshops for the rest of 2014, which will take place on:

  • Sept 21, 2014  (Sunday)
  • Oct 26, 2014  (Sunday)

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review: Fuji XT-1 camera

Pentax used to have a slogan that said simply, ‘Just hold a Pentax’. Such was their confidence that they could win you over with a Pentax SLR. Just hold it, feel it and you will already like it. A lot! For me, that mantle could be placed on Fuji these days. With the X-series cameras, they’ve built up a range of cameras that are very appealing. They look good. They feel good … and they give stunning results.

Yes, I am somewhat of a Fuji fanboy. But then, I love quality products. I’m a fan of that. My walkabout camera is the sexy Fuji X100s that I carry with me every where in my shoulder bag. I’ve been following the releases of every Fuji camera since the first X100. It was obvious Fuji was on a mission then.

And now we have the Fuji XT-1 – the latest in the Fuji X series. I immediately loved the camera. With this review of the Fuji XT-1 (vendor), I want to give an impression of the actual user experience.

Learn more inside…

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image projection effects in the studio with the Light Blaster

Shooting in a studio can feel like a challenge at times – you’re in a big box of a room, and somehow you have to work past that restriction with light and ideas, create something. I’ve been curious about using projection effects in the studio, but always seem to come up short against equipment that is either too expensive, or too limited .. until Udi Tirosh of DIY Photography, turned me onto the idea of the Light Blaster.

The Light Blaster attaches to your speedlight on one end, and a lens on the other end. In the middle, you insert a slide with colors that you can project onto a background, or onto your subject. Alternately, you can use a metal gobo to create shadow patterns on the background. Quite simple really, but the effects are great.

Learn more inside…

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Backblaze – online backup system for your data

Backblaze is part of my back-up system which I use to ensure that data loss just isn’t going to happen. For me, it isn’t the only thing I rely on sure my data is safe.  There are a number of things I have in place for my overall workflow to make sure I don’t sadly cry when a hard drive dies on me.

I’ve posted a few times now about back-up plans for disaster …

… and Backblaze is an important part of this. And if you don’t have Backblaze, you should most definitely have something similar in place. The monthly cost is so low that it’s just plain willful stupidity to not have an online back-up system in place, and risk data loss.

Now, while I am a fan of Backblaze, there is a definite measure of self-interest in mentioning all this again now. They currently have a refer-a-friend promotion in place. If you click on this link – Backblaze – and sign up, you get a month free, and I get a month free too. I’d like that. And I am quite sure you’d also like the peace of mind knowing that your data is safer than it has ever been. Check it out … and make us both happy.

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camera & flash settings: photo session with a couple in bright sunlight

Analyzing other photographer’s work to figure out how they got the result, and figure out how to re-create it if you want, is a solid exercise. I do it often. It’s part of expanding your understanding of photography and lighting, and a way of expanding your technique and your repertoire.

The challenge to figure out the camera settings and additional lighting for a sequence of photos from an engagement photo session – reverse engineering an image: photo session with a couple in bright sunlight – had some interesting guess-work, and some good sleuthing.

Let’s have a look at the images posted in the challenge, and then slowly step through the thought-process. Some of these are near-instinctive decisions, but some are done with a quick frown and an “ok, let’s do it this way then”:

Learn more inside…

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