Thursday, April 8, 2010

Another Portrait Session

Children's Portrait Session - March 2010

This was supposed to be a family portrait session with my niece and her family, but due to a scheduling conflict the whole family didn't make it and it turned into a portrait session for the three children, ages 3mo, 8yrs and 10yrs old.

In preparation for the shoot I went to the fabric store and bought a 10'W x 15'L piece of white muslin to serve as my new backdrop. After hanging it I stretched it out on the floor and taped it down with painters tape to try to avoid wrinkles. I placed two strobes to light up the background and used two additional strobes with 42" shoot through umbrellas to light the subjects.

It was an enjoyable and relaxing shoot. Part of the reason was that I was set up in my own space and that I knew the subjects very well. So here are a few of the photos.

I decided to process these with a high key look. I think it works well with this set, although some may disagree. If you have any comments, one way or the other, I'd like to hear them.

And, that's all I have to say about that.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Anyone Hear the Crickets? 2009 Catch-up

Wow! It's been over a year since my last entry. I guess I failed to find a way to keep up with regular entries. A lot has happened since my last post back in February of 2009. I've taken over 10,000 photos and had several studio shoots as well. Several portrait sessions were with my favorite model, my daughter, but others were done for friends and relatives and one was a show dog.

Dog Shoot - May 2009

Watashi is a Japanese Chin that was being trained as a show dog. I set up my studio equipment to do the photos only to have none of the wireless receivers work properly. In the end I mounted my flash to the camera and used it to optically trigger a few slave flash units. It was much less than optimum, but I managed to get a few decent shots.

Watashi soon lost interest in modeling for me and curled up on the floor. I laid in my stomach and took a few more shots.

Family Portrait Session - November 2009

In November I carried all of my studio equipment to the home of a work friend to do a family portrait session. It was the first time I set up at a remote location and it was a bit of a challenge. I didn't have a backdrop large enough for the group of twelve and ended up hanging a king size sheet. Also, something in the house was causing my wireless triggers to randomly fire. The session was challenging and a bit stressful, but ended up being a lot of fun.

Christmas Portraits - December 2009

We always include a photo of our daughter in the Christmas cards and I decided that I wanted to set up and shoot a few portraits rather than send out school photos. Nothing really special here and no real challenges. Just a relaxed portrait shoot with my favorite model.

Informal Christmas Portraits

I took my camera and my flash with homemade diffuser (Better Bounce Card) with me to the family gatherings. I tried to get as many people as possible to pose in front of the Christmas tree so I could shoot a portrait. Some cooperated, while others did not.

Next post I'll pick up in 2010. I may also make a few entries on my other interests like birds, zoo animals and flowers, bugs & butterflies. Till then...

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Latest Portrait Session

In my previous (first) posting I discussed my attempts at using my studio lighting setup to shoot portraits and crafts. Here are my observations from my latest attempt using the new wireless trigger and receivers.

I set up using two strobes with umbrellas, one on my right at 45 degrees to the subject (main) and one just behind the camera (fill). With the exception of the Rembrandt lighting shot, the strobes were set to a 3:1 ratio of main to fill.

One thing I soon found out was that there just wasn't enough room in my small area (~8' x 9') to bet proper separation between the background and the subject and between the subject and the camera. Using my 77mm portrait lens the shots ere very tight and left no room for cropping, other than to trim a little from the top and/or bottom of the frame. With the 50mm, things were better as far as camera to subject, but I still was stuck with the background too close to the subject.

Shots with the FA77 Limited

As I said previously, with the 77mm I was quite constrained in my small area and the lens was a bit too long.

This one is very similar, but I changed to a black background.

I think that the second is the better of the two. I think she looks better against the dark background.

Shots with the FA50

With the 50mm lens I was able to get more head and shoulders in the shots. I think this focal length was more appropriate given the tight space I was working with.

This shot is with only the main strobe and displays the classic Rembrandt lighting method.

Here are a couple more using both strobes as with the previous 77mm shots.

This shot is a bit less formal and I changed to a light blue backdrop.

Both of the previous two images have the same problem. I had her turn 45 degrees facing away from the main light. There is not enough light in the eyes and I should have either changed the strobe intensities to make the center the main or used a reflector to bring up the light and produce some catch light in her eyes.

One final informal shot with a black & white conversion.

Final Thoughts

I think I'm still moving forward with my lighting technique, but I feel like I still have a way to go before I get proper light balance and become comfortable that I can get repeatable results. I also need to move to another location where I have more room to spread things out. I already have a larger floor standing frame (made from PVC pipe), but still need a couple of sheets of muslin for it. I also need to pick up a few sheet of white foam core boards to use as reflectors.

I hope to make another try in the near future. That's all for now.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Something New for 2009

I'm starting off the New Year trying something new. Not only have I started a Blog, but I got a set of wireless trigger/receivers to use with some of my very old light stands, umbrellas and slave flash units.

Shortly after my daughter was born my wife bought me a set of used lighting equipment for Christmas. The Idea was to be able to take portraits of my daughter as she grew up. I used it for a while, but never quite mastered it. At the time (1994) I was still using film and was struggling to get the kind of results that I had hoped for. I was also losing something while scanning and my PP skills left a lot to be desired, although my tools (Adobe Photoshop 3.0) were among the best of the era.

After a couple of years of less than satisfactory results, the kit made it's way to the attic and was soon forgotten.

In 2006 my father (RIP 9/11/2006) asked me to take pictures of his crafts that me was making for the craft shows. Again, I dragged out the lighting kit and snapped away. This time I was using a Pentax *istDL digital camera and the results were a bit better, but still not up to my expectations.

Even so, Dad was happy with the results and I proceeded to make a catalog of his wares.

After this, the kit went back into the attic for another 2 years. In March of 2008 I got the bug again to try the lighting kit and, once again, up to the attic I went and set up the kit. By now, the old Honeywell slave flash units were dropping like flies, but I still had two that were operational so I decided to try again on my daughter, who by this time had turned 15. Even though being a teen, she cooperated with me and we did another sitting. I should add that I had recently received my new FA77 1:1.8 Limited lens and was itching to try out this lens. It was supposed to be one of the premier Pentax portrait lenses, so it was worth the effort to once again set up the lighting kit.

I did a little research on the web looking for placement of lights, etc. to try to get a more professional result, but I was still stuck with triggering the slave flash units off of my camera mounted dedicated flash. The results were again better than any of my previous attempts.

So here I am, nine months later with wireless triggers, three flash units, wireless trigger/receivers and ready to try again. I once again did a web search and looked for information on portrait lighting set-ups as a refresher. To get ready, I set everything up and played with a single silk rose. Here are a couple of my test shots.

That's it for now. I hope to convince my favorite model to sit for me later today or tomorrow to, once again, try my hand at portrait photography. Until then...