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Light. Science & Magic

T h e   B o o k

You will find instructional texts for every nook of the photographic world. Some quite good. But if I could only have one, this would probably be it.

First published in 1990, years before digital, it is still on the shelf at B&N. The photography section has a constant turn over which makes it even more amazing this old relic is still there next to the latest greatest, 21 years later.

It’s for good reason. Light is light. Natural or man-made. The word Photograph literally means  a record of light. Learn how light works and you’ll be able to record it better. This book tells you how light works.

For my current 366 project I wanted to do something with one of my books, so picking this one was a no brainer. Just like the wife. I chose light painting for some magic. Just like Picasso.

Kick-off photo aside, my 366 involves limiting myself to a single prime lens ($99 Canon 50mm f/1.8 ii, affectionately called the “nifty fifty”), one flash and portable (read cheap-er) light modifiers.

Here I used a tripod (although bean bags would work), a light box made from a LED flashlight and foam core ($6 & $4) and 2 LED light sticks from Home depot (3 for $4.99). I use the red, blue and green ones because manipulation of RGB channels is an important part of B&W conversions and you know I love the B&W. These also come in a rainbow of colors for you hippies.

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Here is the foam core  light wand and the two colored sticks (shown with dog for scale)

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I set a 30 sec exposure, focused and turned off the lights. A few frames narrowed down the f/stop and ISO combo. I kept the light sticks in my pocket, already on, but hidden from camera. For the first 7 or 8 sec I used the light wand to expose the monkey, book, and chair. Then clicked it off, 20 seconds left to paint in the light streaks.

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If you want a color image, then you’re done. No flashes, no triggers, no Photoshop. Image below SOOC (straight out of camera).

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By comparing the color to the B&W you can see how the separate color channels are treated to arrive at the final B&W image. The red channel is muted to become the ghost light. (Most editing programs, even the free ones, have presets for B&W if you don’t want to set the channel sliders manually).

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Any camera that allows a long exposure will work, the lights are cheap and no two images are the same.

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HBU New Years

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T h e   S h o t

   A New Years card for my friends on a flickr critique site.  I stick with pet portrait theme established with the Christmas card. That was High Key Dog, so I go Low Key Ferret.

    A ferret is the closest thing I have to a giant flying lizard, no wait…my wife! Doh !

 So I set the camera below his eye level to give presence and let the talent do the rest. I’ll get something good, Fabio’s a natural.

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T h e   T e x t

     I under-expose slightly to give a canvas on Fabio’s black patches. 6 pt. text is illegible in a standard view (full pic), but you can see something’s afoot. Each greeting is a separate layer so it can be warped to break up the lines in the photo, but just as important, it allows me to pack a jumble of text, where individual messages are kept separate, into a small space.

    In this case I actually wanted the text obvious, but I discovered along the way how it can be much more cleverly hidden.

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L i g h t i n g

   Ferrets are fast. Set shutter to 1/250 (max sync). This effectively kills the ugly tungsten ambient. Set aperture to f/8 to get the DOF I want and bring the lights up to that.

Key light is a snooted / gridded LP-160 @ 1/32 camera right.

Fill light is a mini softbox on a 430EXii @ 1/16 overhead, feathered off Fabio’s “canvas side”.

 Accent / separation light is a snooted / gridded LP_160 @ 1/64 camera left and behind subject.

    I notice a Fabio sized snowman on our holiday display wearing black felt boots…score! I use Frosty for my framing  and exposure set up.

15 frames later I arrive at the flash settings above, light locations below, and  f/9 on the camera.

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S e t   U p

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    Low power settings on flashes means quick recycle times. Reflector was actually up on corner of stool during shooting, just for a little left side fill, but up and away from lower left “canvas’ area.

    Snooted / gridded key light give a sharp flick of light at a very small family of angles, resulting in crisp highlights and shadow definition to add depth and detail to the fur. Perfect here, not so good for wife’s portrait (really brings out her beard).

Usually won’t get too much from a snooted and gridded separation light with a darker subject, but here Fabio is so small, it is a relatively larger source.

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 T h e    P a t h

   The perspective I wanted determined the focal length (38mm on a cropped sensor), DOF the aperture (f/9). The subject and location determined the shutter (1/250). The lighting as usual is part science part magic, but that’s the fun part.

   15 frames to get the light, 20 or so to capture the talent and there it is…off to Photoshop for 40 or so text layers  :-(

   If you look at the catch lights at 100% (click to zoom) in Fabio’s left eye, you can see the tight spectral nature of the snooted / gridded key light and recognize the effect on the fur. I love this crisp light …sometimes.

   Like FWOT says, it’s always dark around here (this latitude/season) when I have time to shoot….so I expect a bunch of this indoor flash stuff for me. At least for the first few months of my new 365/100 stranger project sponsored by the exclusive Ruan Institute of Photography in assoc. with the  Orbit Freedom Foundation.

   I had not tried disguising text in an image before. Learned a lot more than I could put in this post, had even more fun. My only regret is those omitted who should have received a greeting.  Well,  get the bunny and catch ‘em at Easter.

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HBU Christmas card

 

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Me and Alice P.

  H o w   I   “M e t”   A l i c e . . . T h e   P h o t o

   Last May, a photographer cared enough to write this in a comment: “Any photogs with pictures of dogs please send a couple to Alice P.   http:www.postpals.org . She is seriously ill, loves her new puppy Mabel and would like some photos of dogs – Thanks “

So it seems I met Alice through a couple of photographers I didn’t (and still don’t) know. I remember they were both female so I’ll call ‘em Ms. Talented Photo Maker and Ms.Thoughtful Photo Commenter. Strange they both have the same middle name.

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 P o s t   P a l s

   Post Pals is a few volunteers and a laptop encouraging letters and cards (snail mail style) for around 50 seriously ill kids in Britain. I looked up Alice, five kids are featured each month, she was one. My wife and I sent her some pics of our pup who happened to be about the same age as Mabel and some words of encouragement.

  The Post Pals kids usually can’t reply, so during May we checked her status every week or so and hoped for the best for her. We were unaware that Alice had gotten very bad news

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 T h e   B u c k e t   L i s t

   Alice knows her time is short and decided to make a  “Bucket List ” and post it to a blog . Her first post “Hello” http://alicepyne.blogspot.com/2011/06/hello_06.html  was on June 6, 2011. It includes a photo of her with Mabel. Within 24 hours her blog went viral, the story was picked up by the BBC then finally U.S. national news. Was Alice Pyne, viral blogger……OUR Alice P? Though we know up front these kids are seriously ill, the news she was terminal was still a shock.

    Her little sister Milly, who is also a patient, was running in a charity race that week-end and had a target to raise  1,000 British pounds. It was mentioned in the blog and Milly ended up raising over 33,000 pounds. So far Alice’s blog has over 3.3 million visitors.

 We follow her blog and still hope for the best.

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Check out her first couple posts. Visit Post Pals and drop them a note. Alice is helping us much more than we’re helping her.

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That photo touched our lives….and I don’t even remember its subject.

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The Eyes Have It

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” Amateurs worry about equipment, Professionals worry about time, Masters worry about light” -Anonymous

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  The word photograph literally means “graph or record of light”. Elegant lighting, natural or man-made, is the key to compelling images.

   Landscape photographers spend a lot of time waiting for the light, and will often visit a location multiple times to get the shot. They depend on natural light.

   Smaller subjects, say an elephant or smaller, lend themselves to a second option, man-made light. This light may be continuous light, studio strobes or battery-powered flash.

   Light is light, natural or man-made. Snapshot flash photos look so poor because the light is very close to the lens (flat) and comes from a very small source (hard). Getting the flash off the camera solves the “flat” issue. Bounce it off, or through, a surface larger than the 2×3 inch flash lens and you get softer light.

   Often you can determine the shape and location of light sources by looking closely for reflective surfaces, especially curved ones. Eyes are reflective (red-eye in flash photos),and curved.

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T h e   S e t   U p

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Note the size, location and intensity of each of the 3 lights here.

(click on image, then click again to enlarge)

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T h e   S h o t

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Olaf’s eyes give away the shape, size, location and intensity of two of the lights, and some Sherlock Holmes style deduction will give away the third. And if you know how they did it, you can do it yourself!

(click on image, then click again to enlarge)

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   Any camera that has a flash can be made to trigger these flashes including simple point and shoots. Pillow cases or sheets etc. can take the place of the umbrella and diffuser. $150 in lighting and you can sell crap on e-bay like crazy (stuff looks better lit better), and you can take delightful portraits of the family. To hell with JC Penny.

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Pants on fire…

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   At the end of my Concours Chaos post I promised Hot Rods next. Then I got distracted, layering and painting with light….just noticed the error. So here are some Hot Rods…no real info this post cause the wife is nagging me to go to Starbucks. Must not kill wife…must not kill wife… 

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Truck of same color in background ruining my shot. Must not kill truck owner…

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This guy never parks where I can get a good shot. Must not kill Hemi-Ford guy…

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Person in reflection would not move. Must not kill reflection person…

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This is the best of the Prowler shots. Must not kill those who disagree…

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Hope you liked this hastily assembled mess. If not, please don’t tell me. Must not kill only reader…

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Just not right…

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   Dressing up your pets for the holidays, (or worse, non-holidays) just isn’t right. Christmas decorations, (or worse, Christmas shopping) before Thanksgiving just isn’t right. According to some, using the term ‘Merry Christmas’ instead of ‘Happy Holidays’, just isn’t right. Trying to find a Santa hat in early October..just isn’t easy.

    Any print work or publishing ( i.e. Christmas cards etc.) that is not to be transmitted via the web needs a generous lead time if you want to assure timely results (with a little cushion for the inevitable). In my opinion e-cards are just not the same thing. The spirit of the holidays makes these items maybe more of a keepsake thing, even if only a short-term one. So if you’re thinking about sending out old-school cards embossed with something stupid, like your pet dressed up, or even worse… you and the family, don’t forget to start early…we are. So make it personal this year, kill some trees and maybe save the USPS.

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   My apologies for bringing Christmas into October..that’s just not right.

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