Tag Archives: speedlites

Close-Up Photography, Behind The Scenes…

Close-up photo of sedum

My wife surprised me over the weekend with a large flowerpot she filled with succulent sedums to brighten up the studio door entrance. The area in question gets a lot of afternoon sun so she came up with something that can stand all that light and heat and also not require very much watering.

I had been in the studio shooting close-up images of blood testing kits and needed a bit of a break from all that close focusing so I headed outside to shoot close-ups of the new sedums! This entire shot occupies about as much real estate as the top segment of your thumb so we are definitely past 1:1 in scale here. I had recently upgraded to the newer Canon 100mm f/2.8L macro lens from the older 100mm USM macro introduced in March 2000. While I had no complaints about the older version except being slow to focus in low light (what else is new?) I wanted to see what the designation of L quality had to offer. Being almost double in price, I was expecting a lot and it did not disappoint.

For much of my close-up work with the older lens, I relied on a 62mm Nikon 5T close-up lens attached with a step-up ring to the 58mm macro. This arrangement allowed me to go beyond 1:1 for much of my macro work without having to employ extension tubes which eat a considerable amount of light. There is virtually no light loss with the 5T as it screws on to the front of the lens. With the new lens being larger at 67mm filter thread size, I would need a step-down ring from 67mm to 62mm and this situation had the potential for vignetting the corners using the smaller 5T CL lens.

I’m happy to report that was not the case as I soon discovered. I haven’t experimented at many distances yet, but in this instance I was only about 6 inches away from the little flowers and any slight vignetting was added in Lightroom4 but I was glad to see no apparent vignetting from the lens/ring/5T set-up. Shot in manual focus (as are 95% of my macro images) the lighting consisted of one dome-diffused Canon 600EX-RT on the left, aided by a white fill-card on the right. The colors were sweet but when I saw it on the camera’s LCD monitor it cried out for a B+W treatment. Enjoy :-)

Lastolite Triflash Bracket…

Lastolite Triflash Bracket Test

Like a kid with a new toy on Christmas morning I just had to try out the new Lastolite Triflash Bracket I picked up this morning from Pro Photo Supply. I also wanted to test how quickly I could shoot with three flashes rather than one and how good (or bad) the Canon ST-E2 Transmitter would work outside. Granted the light this afternoon was pretty flat and low with lots of medium gray clouds so the transmitter worked fairly well. I was shooting about three feet away with the flashes to my left on a lightweight Westcott stand. Camera was a Canon 5D, ISO 200, 1/200 @ f/2.8.

Lastolite Tri-flash bracket

I didn’t do any posing with the kiddos obviously because they were so giddy with playing and it being Friday after all, that I just wanted to shoot quickly and put the flashes through their paces and keep the energy level high. It does strike me how much $ in flashes you can hang on the thing, where one Alien Bee 1600 monobloc will only run you about $360 so I do suggest a sandbag or gym weights in a sling when shooting with a white shoot-through umbrella as I was here. I can’t wait to use this ungainly thing more often!

Portland Senior Portrait Photography…

I really enjoy shooting senior images and working with high school juniors on their yearbook photos. It is such a special time in a young persons life and senior photos have morphed from the boring old “yearbook” photo of days of old (you should see mine!) to be more fashion-oriented with hipper, more modern looks. I think it will be awesome to look back at their senior photo set as what they looked like at a point in time before their lives really took off!

It seems I have done a lot of guys lately and specifically guys who don’t like to sit for photos! It’s always a fun challenge when after a few clicks, they ask “are we done?” My job is to take their nervousness or nervous energy and turn in into making them a participant and collaborator interested in the final images. I tend to shoot seniors quickly and have lots of staging, lighting and posing set-ups in mind even if we don’t get to accomplish all of them.

Daniel, pictured here, was one such fella. Very accomplished as a musician and cross-country runner, he had a no-nonsense air about him that took a while to break the ice and get him on my side. Even though I endeavor to keep to a minimum showing the subject images from the camera’s LCD during the shoot , in this case it helped to draw Daniel in and to be more involved with the shoot, once he could see the quality of the lighting and images we were getting. It’s always a good idea to keep your peripheral vision on high alert and allow spontanaity to happen during the shoot and not be so “locked in” to your original concept that you miss some great shots that are happening right in front of you.

I raided my daughter’s bedroom for her little keyboard which added a nice propping touch and a little hard graphic element to the first shot. The second shot was our last of the session where he trusted me enough to let down his guard and allow a bit of his true personality come out. He and his family was very pleased with our efforts :)

Senior Portrait Photography…

On a rainy Saturday this past weekend I headed up to rural La Center, Washington in Clark County to shoot these senior portraits. About an hour north of Portland and originally known as a business center and depot along the Lewis River in the 1800’s, today La Center is mostly known for its legalized gambling in four casinos in the center of town but the city is still dominated by wide open spaces, farms and beautiful horse ranches.

We had originally planned to take advantage of the spectacular fall color but scheduling conflicts made it impossible to catch the peak weekend. The report on Saturday was early morning fog so we pushed back the shoot an hour to let the fog lift and give us some visibility of the beautiful views of the low-lying hills surrounding the families ranch. As the rain increased while I made my way up there on I-5, I started formulating Plan B. The family had recently built brand new stalls to shelter their several horses and they afforded many cool locations for some good pictures. I jazzed some of them up with a few Canon Speedlites and some colored gels to add some pop.

Canon Speedlite Digital Field Guide…

Canon Speedlite System Second Edition Cover

Detailed coverage of Canon’s four speedlite-580EX II, 430 EX II, 220 EX and the new 270 EX-built exclusively for Canon DSLRs.

If you use a digital SLR camera, then you understand just how critical it is to have a capable flash. Canon Speedlite shines a whole new light on taking photos with a Canon DSLR. This full-color, in-depth guide takes you beyond the standard manual that accompanies the Speedlite and shows you the types of settings you can use on your camera when working with the Speedlite.

You’ll explore the possibilities of wireless lighting with multiple speedlites as well as the creative effects you can achieve. Author and professional photographer Brian McLernon demystifies setting up the speedlite, synchronizing the speedlite equipment, and determining lighting ratios.

  • Canon DSLRs are only growing in popularity and the Speedlite system is a must-have accessory for exploring a new world of digital photo possibilities
  • Shows you how to create an inexpensive and portable wireless studio lighting system that can go where you go
  • Demystifies setting up the speedlite, synchronizing the equipment, and figuring out lighting ratios
  • Covers other Canon lighting system components, such as the ST-E2 Speedlite Transmitter, Macro Ring Lite, and Macro Twin Lite

Real-world information on using these speedlites illustrated by full-color examples and untangles the complexities of using the Canon Speedlite system.

Urban farmers…

Urban farmer

OK, so the books are out and it’s been wild getting feedback and emails about them from readers all over the world! We’re currently in discussion about another book that I am very excited about if it gets final approval. I can’t say much about it right now but suffice to say it is a subject very near and dear to my photographic heart.

Since the pace has eased up a bit around here I thought I would post some of the images either used or shot for the books and provide a little backstory on each one. First up is this shot of my neighbor Damien for a story on urban farmers and for the Canon Speedlite System DFG. With little daylight left I wanted to explore the whole warm/cool visual tension with Speedlites. The Canon 5D Mark II was set to an indoor tungsten balance to turn the background a deep blue and the foliage behind Damien was lit with one ungelled Speedlite at around 1/8th power. Since the camera was set to tungsten white balance and the flash produces daylight white balance without a gel, the whole background goes blue or very cool tones.

A second Speedlite @ about 1/16th power and mounted on a stand with an FJ Westcott umbrella-style Apollo softbox was used as the main light. I taped on two full CTOs (color temperature orange) gels and shot about 12 frames. Set-up and tear down took about 15 minutes.

In post production I decided I way overdid it with the CTO’s and backed off the saturation for less intensity of the colors. I now have a full kit of 1/4, 1/2, and full CTO’s for next time. I like the visual tension between the two different color families. What do you think?