Archive for the ‘Equipment’ Category|
Tuesday, March 5th, 2013
I just finished a series of four blog posts talking about the various advantages and disadvantages of different types of lighting for photo and video work (the first post, with links to the others, is here), and why I’ve decided, for the time being, to use a mixed kit of fluorescent and LED lights. This kit is great and should serve my needs very well, but there is one hurdle that needs to be overcome first: while these lights are all advertised as “full spectrum” and “daylight balanced” at 5600K, in reality they all have visibly different color temperatures, so they need to be balanced with each other in order to work well being used together to light the same scene. In this post, I’m going to give step-by-step instructions on how I took three different lights with radically different white balances and balanced them to work together beautifully.
In the image above, which I designed intentionally to exaggerate the color balance differences of the three lights, I placed (from left) a miniature LED panel, a fluorescent softbox and a 1×1 LED panel next to each other and aimed them at a uniformly white ceiling. The difference is striking (and awful).
As is, it would be very difficult to use these lights in a scene together without them appearing different colors. So they need to be balanced together. How to do this? Gels! Pulling out my collection of gels, I got to work.
I keep an assortment of gels to color balance pretty much anything (from left to right): CTOs, CTBs, Plus Greens and Minus Greens each in 1/8th, 1/4 and 1/2 densities. With this assortment, no matter which way a light is off balance, I can balance it.
In order to balance the three different lights (from three different manufacturers!) I started with the one that is most difficult to gel: the fluorescent (this is one of the biggest weaknesses of fluorescent lights in my opinion… they’re a pain to gel). I used that as my basis and then adjusted the other lights to match it.
It is possible to simply judge the color of a light visually in comparison to others next to it, like in the photos above, and to experiment with different gel combinations to get the lights to the point where they visually look the same to the eye, but “eyeballing” it like that is extremely difficult to do accurately; I have a very good eye for color (I scored a 19 on the X-Rite Online Color Acuity test! Take the test yourself, it’s fun!), and even I can’t achieve the level of precision that I want by eyeballing it. So to measure the color balance precisely I decided to use a couple of precision instruments: my camera and computer.
To start with, I set up a simple 18% neutral gray card on a light stand (I use this one from Amazon… it’s cheap and does the job well), along with a color chart. I lit the gray card and color chart with the fluorescent light (placing the light at an angle so that the light is illuminating the card but not reflecting glare). I then blacked out the windows in my office and shut off all the other light sources (overhead lights, computer monitors, etc.) so there was no “contamination” and I knew all the light hitting the gray card was from the light in question, and I took a still photo of the gray card and color chart with my Canon 5D Mark II camera in RAW format.
I downloaded the photo onto my computer, and opened the file in Photoshop (you could also use Lightroom or any other application that can work with RAW files, I just happened to choose Photoshop). Using the White Balance Picker / eyedropper tool in the Adobe Camera Raw conversion screen (the same tool is in the Develop tab in Lightroom in the White Balance box), I sampled the 18% neutral gray card to set the proper white balance for the image, the values of which are then displayed in the white balance section on the right (it is a good idea to click a bunch of times in a few places on the gray card as the individual measurements will vary slightly, then average the values).
Sure enough, I now saw numerically what I had seen visually on the wall: that fluorescent light was very, very green (+28 tint!). Since that is the light that was most off balance, ideally I would have gelled it to match the other lights, but since this light is so difficult to gel and the other are so much easier, I instead went the other way around and gelled the others to match this one.
With the temperature and tint white balance values for the fluorescent light in hand, I then repeated the process (blacking out the room, lighting the neutral gray card with a single light source, and shooting a photo) for each of my other lights and then found the white balance values for them as well (I found that my miniature panel has white balance values of 5100K temperature and -3 tint, and my 1×1 LED panel is 5050K temperature and +5 tint).
With that information, I then knew precisely how off balance my lights were from each other. I then added a gel to one of the lights, repeated the process of measuring the white balance values, and noted the numerical effect of a particular gel (bear in mind that as much as the gel manufacturers try to keep the color of their gels as pure as possible, a Plus Green gel will never be purely plus green…for example, my Rosco 1/4 Plus Green gels turned out to add +28 points of green tint, but also knocked off 300 degrees of temperature. But after measuring the color balance values of each light and the color effect of each gel, it was very straightforward to figure out which gels to add to each light to balance them together.
In the end, to balance my LED panels to my fluorescent lights, I needed to add 1/4 CTB and 3/8 Plus Green (one 1/4 and one 1/8) to my mini LED, and 1/8 CTB and 1/4 Plus Green to my 1×1 LED, which, while not numerically perfect, got my lights as closely balanced as possible with 1/8th-increment gels. Now I can comfortably use all of my lights in the same scene together and be confident that their colors will be balanced and visually indistinguishable.
Tags: 1/4 Plus Green, 18% gray card, 5600K, 5D Mark II, Adobe Camera Raw, balance, camera, Canon, Color Acuity, Color Balance, color temperature, computer, CTB, CTO, daylight balanced, fluorescent, full spectrum, gels, LED, light, Lightroom, Minus Green, mixed light sources, neutral gray card, photo, Photography, Photoshop, Plus Green, RAW, Rosco, softbox, temperature, tint, tungsten, video, videography, white balance, X-Rite
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Monday, March 4th, 2013
This post is the last of a series of four comparing the advantages and disadvantages of different types of continuous lights for photo and video work. Here are the previous ones:
Light Quality (CRI)
When choosing a light source, the final (and perhaps most important) issue is the quality of the light that that light source emits; in other words, its spectrum, or “CRI.” As most people know, light is made up of a whole spectrum of wavelengths, which results in different colors (in terms of visible light, red light is at one end of the visible spectrum with long wavelengths and blue is on the other end, with short wavelengths). Different types of light sources (LED, fluorescent, tungsten incandescent, HMI, the sun) emit different mixtures of wavelengths of light, and the best ones, like the sun, emit a nice, broad, even spectrum of wavelengths (without large spikes or dips at any given wavelength), which allows objects of different colors to appear as vibrant as possible in a photograph or video.
Color Rendering Index (or “CRI”) is a measure of the mix of spectrum that a light emits. This is the biggest advantage of the traditional xenon and tungsten lights: they emit the broadest spectrum of light of any of the types of photo and video lights here (this is because they closely mimic the behavior of a concept known to physicists as “black body radiation.” If physics is your thing or you really want to understand this subject in depth, read about black body radiation and Planck’s law). As a result, tungsten and xenon lights have the highest CRI (100, or close to it). LED and fluorescent lights, on the other hand, emit light that contains more of certain wavelengths and less of others (uneven spikes and dips), and therefore have lower CRIs (from as high as 95+ for good quality lights to as low as 60-70 for low-quality lights). The effect of lower CRIs is that some colors, including skin tones, can appear muted, washed out or unnatural in photos and videos. For this reason it is essential to choose lights with high CRI values.
Both my LED panels and my fluorescent lights have CRI values above 90. That is, they emit a quite broad spectrum of light that will illuminate objects of all colors well (that is not to say that they are accurately color balanced or white balanced for any particular target: CRI and white balance are two completely separate issues… more on that in tomorrow’s post). To illustrate the broad spectrum of light from each of these sources, take a look at the images below.
To make the images above, I projected near-parallel beams of light from my LED (left) and fluorescent (right) light heads into an optical prism, which refracted the light into its constituent wavelengths, and photographed the results. Note that all of the colors of the visible light spectrum are well-represented. This is an indication of the high CRI value of these lights.
After experimenting with and testing various lights both in theoretical tests like the emission spectra above as well as practical ones like lighting a white seamless with them, using them for portraits, etc., I’ve made a few conclusions. In no particular order, here goes:
- The concern that LED and fluorescent lights emit poor-quality light as compared to tungsten lights is unfounded. With a tiny bit of adjustment via gels (more on that tomorrow) both from a subjective standpoint (how they look) and a technical standpoint (technical measures of their light emission), these lights look great.
- Both LED and fluorescent lights consume a tiny fraction of the amount of power that tungsten lights do (which makes them more usable in the field), and don’t generate the searing heat of tungstens (which is always inconvenient and can be destructive and painful, and uncomfortable for subjects).
- On the other hand, fluorescents and LEDs don’t generally generate the quantity of light that most tungsten heads do, so it may be necessary to use more of them for certain applications (flooding a white seamless, much less a full cyc wall, requires a huge sheer quantity of light), so these lights might not be terribly well-suited for these applications.
- Fluorescent lights are much less portable and more time-consuming to set up than tungsten lights, but LEDs are easier and faster.
- Light modifiers and accessories like softboxes don’t really exist for LED panels yet (although I did just make a softbox for my 1×1 LED… perhaps that’ll be a future blog post…), but fluorescent heads can usually easily accommodate anything mounted on a standard speed ring.
So what does it all mean? These lights are tools (just like all of our other kinds of gear), and they each have advantages and disadvantages, and are better suited for some tasks and worse for others, and the right tool for the job will depend on the particular job: lighting a large stage with a two-wall cyc wall is still best done with high-power, high-output tungsten or HMI lights. A quick location interview is probably best done with a couple of LED panels. For a small- to medium-sized studio shoot, fluorescents are probably the best bet.
Tomorrow I’m going to be going to a location and shooting in the same room all day. What will I bring? Fluorescents and a couple of LEDs.
I’ve learned a lot experimenting with all these different types of lights. If you’ve read this blog post and the few that came before it, hopefully I was able to share some of that with you. If you have any comments, different opinions or questions, let me know!
P.S.- Since I’m going to be using a mixed bag of different light sources that result in a mixed bag of color temperatures, in order to work well together the lights need to be balanced to each other. Balancing my mixed bag of lights will be the subject of tomorrow’s post…
Tags: black body, black body radiation, Color Balance, color rendition index, continuous light, continuous lights, CRI, efficiency, emission, fluorescent, heat generation, HMI, incandescent, LED, light heads, lights, modifiers, optical prism, photo light, Photography, Planck's Law, portability, portraits, power usage, seamless, skin tones, soft box, softbox, spectra, spectrum, speed ring, sun, tungsten, video light, videography, visible light, visible spectrum, wavelength, white balance, xenon
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Thursday, February 28th, 2013
This post is third in a series comparing the various types of continuous lights for photo and video work (it’ll definitely make more sense if you read the previous ones).
This is also something that is less important for photographers and videographers who work primarily in a studio, but for someone like me whose work is almost entirely on location, it is important. Tungsten and HMI light heads are usually relatively compact, but they are fragile; the bulbs are made of very thin glass and even thinner filaments, and can break if jostled around too much (especially if they’re cold, as tends to happen here in the northeast in winter). Also, since tungsten and HMI lights get so hot when they’re in use, at the end of a shoot they need to have a fair amount of time to cool down before being packed away or they’ll melt case fabric or padding or cables, gels or whatever else they happen to come in contact with in the bag or case… and a melted plastic power cable just sucks.
Fluorescent light heads have got to be the worst when it comes to portability. Since they don’t get hot you don’t have the issue above, but instead the bulbs are larger, bulkier, and even more fragile. My 3-head fluorescent kit is HUGE, because the bulbs are so fragile they need to be transported in individual cases (and with five bulbs per head, that means I’m carrying around 15 bulb boxes in the kit).
I can drive my fluorescent kit to a location, but don’t even think about flying with it… the kit is bigger than airlines’ maximum allowable suitcase size, and even if you could get it on the plane, by the time you picked it up at baggage claim all the bulbs would be shattered anyway.
And then there are LEDs… oh, blessed LEDs. LEDs are tiny, compact, rugged and oh-so-easy to travel with. Since they have no bulbs and no glass, LED panels are by far the most durable and least fragile of the lights here. Advantage, LEDs.
Speed of Setup and Ease of Use
Speed of setup is another issue that studio dwellers probably aren’t terribly concerned with, since lights that live in a studio frequently can stay set up and don’t need to be broken down between shoots. But for those of us always on the go it is a consideration. And here once again, fluorescent heads are the clear loser. Setup of tungsten and HMI heads is pretty straightforward: you put the head on a stand, plug it in, attach whatever modifiers you want to use, and you’re good to go. Takes a couple of minutes per light, tops. With fluorescent heads though, it’s a different story. In addition to all of the same steps you’d take with a tungsten head, with fluorescent lights each individual bulb (of which there can be anywhere from three to six per head, depending on the model) has to be carefully removed from its case and carefully installed into the head before any modifiers are attached, drastically increasing the setup time. LED panels, on the other hand, couldn’t be simpler to set up. You stick the panel on a stand and plug it in. Done. One of these lights can literally be set up in under 30 seconds. Advantage, LEDs.
Usability is a much more complex question (and a really important one). Here, tungsten and HMI lights really benefit from having been around for far longer than LEDs and fluorescents. The design of tungsten and HMI heads have been refined over years, and a whole universe of accessory modifiers have been developed to work with them: Fresnel heads use a lens and a moving focusing mechanism to allow light from these heads to be tightly focused into a spot or allowed to spread more flood effect. All manner of modifiers (umbrellas, snoots, gobos, softboxes of every conceivable shape and size, etc.) have been designed for these lights, and as a result they are extremely versatile. Fluorescent and LED lights, however, unfortunately are still new enough that for the most part these accessory modifiers are not yet available for them. Additionally, the design of most of these lights prevents them from benefiting from Fresnel-type housings, so their beam tends to be very wide (although a couple of companies are just starting to make LED Fresnels… take a look at these Arris). As a result, the light from panel-type LEDs and most fluorescent heads disperses quickly, so these lights tend to have short “throw” distances. Coupled with the lack of modifiers, this limits the versatility of LED and fluorescent lights. I am certain that modifier manufacturers will quickly start designing softboxes and other accessories for them, but for the time being, this leaves fluorescent and LED lights at a disadvantage.
Tomorrow’s post, the last in this little series, will look at quality of light emitted by the various types of light (the CRI), and my conclusions.
Tags: airlines, Arri, bulbs, continuous lights, CRI, ease of use, filament, flood, fluorescent, fluorescent light head, fragile, fresnel, gobo, HMI light head, hot, LED, LED Fresnel, lights, location, modifiers, photo, photo lights, Photographer, Photography, portability, snoot, softbox, spot, studio, tungsten, tungsten light head, umbrella, usability, video, video lights, videographer, videography
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Wednesday, February 27th, 2013
This post is the second in what is going to be a short series comparing different types of continuous lights for photo and video use. In the previous post I talked about how in deciding which type of lights to buy in my next round of equipment purchases, there were a lot of considerations. In this post I’ll talk about two of them specifically: efficiency and heat generation (this post will make more sense if you read the first one). Links to the other posts in the series are at the bottom of this post.
Efficiency (i.e., power usage)
Tungsten lights use a ton of power. A huge advantage of HMI, fluorescent and LED lights is that they use a small fraction of the amount of power that tungsten lights need to create the same amount of light. For example, two of these common 45-watt fluorescent bulbs (for a total of 90 watts) are brighter (5600 lumens) than a standard 300-watt tungsten fixture such as this Arri 300 fresnel (5200 lumens). That’s almost four times the amount of light created per watt of power used! For many people, especially studio shooters, this may not be important. For me though, it is. Nearly all of my work is done on location, and sometimes even outdoors, so wall power outlets are sometimes hard to come by. HMI, fluorescent and LED lights use so little power that it is actually feasible to power them by battery (for example, the 1×1 LED panel I just bought has a V-mount battery plate on the back), which is great if access to wall power is difficult, and is pretty much out of the question for tungsten lights. Advantage, HMI, fluorescent and LED.
Perhaps even more importantly though, the lights’ efficiency is what dictates their…
Heat Generation (aka, “Will these lights make my subjects sweat and burn me if I touch them?”)
As anyone who’s ever made the mistake of touching a tungsten or HMI light after it’s been on for a while can say, these lights generate heat. A lot of heat. Instant-blistering-burn heat. Additionally, not only do the heads themselves get hot, they also radiate heat toward the subject. So this is a doubly-important issue: not only are “hot lights” inconvenient to work with because you can’t touch them with bare hands (instead you need to use gloves, pliers or another tool when changing scrims, for example), but they also deliver a lot of heat to your subject, which is bad for a whole slew of reasons for a whole variety of subjects: if you’re shooting a fragile object like food or flowers, the heat can wilt, melt or otherwise harm the object. If your subject is a person, the heat can make the person uncomfortable which can lead to a less-than-ideal interview, or cause them to start sweating.
Tungsten and HMI lights get very hot, but fluorescent and LED lights don’t. Both fluorescent and LED lights will get warm to the touch, but will never get so hot that they’ll burn you if you touch them (or, at least, they shouldn’t… if they do, something’s wrong) and they don’t radiate almost any heat to the subject. I don’t shoot a lot of food or flowers, but I do shoot people, and I want my subjects to be as comfortable as possible, so this is a big deal to me. Once again, advantage, fluorescent & LED.
Tomorrow I’ll talk about the portability and speed of setup and ease of use of each of these lights.
(Update: links to the subsequent posts in this series are here:
Post #3: Portability and Speed of Setup & Ease of Use
Tags: 1x1 LED panel, Arri, battery, burn, continuous lights, efficiency, flowers, fluorescent, fluorescent lights, food, fresnel, heat, HMI lights, hot lights, interview, LED, LED lights, lights, location, lumens, outdoors, photo, photo lights, Photography, radiate, scrims, studio, subject, sweat, tungsten, tungsten lights, v-mount battery, video, video lights, videography, watt
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Tuesday, February 26th, 2013
(Note: I originally started writing this as a single post, but it turns out there is so much to say on the topic that I’m going to break it into several posts. Links to the others will be at the bottom.)
I recently found myself in the same situation that every photographer and videographer occasionally faces. I’m currently expanding my arsenal of photo and video lights, so I’ve had to tackle the question of which type of lights to buy. Since my work includes both still and video (and since I already have a selection of strobe lights that I’m happy with), I’m focusing now on continuous lights that can be used for either still or motion work.
First, some background. As photographers and videographers know, the most commonly used lights have traditionally been xenon gas flash tubes for still photography and tungsten incandescent bulbs for video and film (HMIs are also somewhat common for motion as well, but less so than tungsten). These traditional kinds of lights work very well and they definitely still have value in the right application (in fact, in certain types of applications they’re still the best type of light there is), but they do have significant weaknesses and disadvantages, and recent technological advances have improved other light sources such as LEDs and compact fluorescent bulbs to the point where they too are now practical for photo and video use.
So we now have this whole range of light sources available to us that includes the traditional tungsten and HMI (such as those made by Arri, Mole-Richardson and many others), fluorescent (in both tube format like Kino-Flos and CFL format like Westcott Spiderlites) and LED (like Litepanels) as well as some even newer and more exotic technologies that are still coming to market like organic and plasma panels (the Zacuto “PlaZma light” will be very interesting to keep an eye on once it is introduced, hopefully later this year).
Among all of these options, how do we choose the right light? Every type has advantages and disadvantages, and as with most things, which is best comes down to your individual needs and what type of work you do. Personally, the vast majority of my work is done on location instead of in a studio, so the factors that are important to me are 1) efficiency (i.e., power use), 2) heat generation, 3) portability, 4) speed of setup and ease of use, and most importantly, 5) light quality (CRI). (Cost is of course also a factor, but with each type light there are expensive options and cheaper options, so that’s less relevant). So for my current round of equipment purchases, I evaluated each of the light types on each of the criteria above. In the next couple of posts I’ll talk about how the various types of lights compare when it comes to efficiency, heat generation, portability, speed of setup and ease of use, and light quality, finally ending with my conclusions and my purchases.
Tomorrow I’ll talk about the efficiency and heat generation of each types of light heads.
(Update: Links to the subsequent posts in this series are here:
Post #2: Efficiency (i.e., power usage) and Heat Generation
Post #3: Portability and Speed of Setup & Ease of Use
Tags: Arri, compact fluorescent, continuous lights, CRI, efficiency, flash tubes, fluorescent, fresnel, heat, HMI, HMIs, incandescent, Kino-Flo, LED, lights, Litepanels, Mole-Richardson, motion, photo, Photographer, PlaZma light, portability, setup, Spiderlites, still, tungsten, video, videographer, Westcott, xenon, Zacuto
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Friday, December 21st, 2012
On this last rainy weekday before everyone takes off for the holidays, I had a few free minutes and decided to add a couple of images to the website that I really like, but until now very few people had seen. The first image, “Dave,” was shot several months ago during the summer, and the second image , “Kaylee 2″ was shot just last week. Here they are.
Dave is a master craftsman who works for a large marine services company in Portland, Maine called Portland Yacht Services. This summer I was in Portland on a commercial shoot for PYS on a dry dock in Portland harbor producing a timelapse video of PYS’s employees using the drydock to service a large yacht that had been damaged. The drydocking process is fascinating (the entire structure lowers itself under water, the vessel to be serviced maneuvers inside, and the structure rises back up, lifting the entire vessel out of the water). It was a great shoot in a totally unique setting, and I also just happened to catch this candid shot of Dave on the dock. To me, guys like Dave epitomize the Maine maritime economy and culture.
Kaylee is a musician and music therapist from Seattle in the final stage of her training. Last week I was shooting a music therapy session at a senior housing community called Jewish Community Housing for the Elderly in Framingham, Massachusetts shooting marketing photos. I was severely limited in the amount of equipment I was allowed to bring into the facility and was limited to a single strobe and reflector, so I had to get a bit creative with my lighting. In order to create the image above I decided to take advantage of large windows that were in the room, and use the natural light as my key light and instead use the strobe only for fill. Given the limitations I really like how the image turned out.
That’s it for me, now it’s time to pack up and get on the road to my parents’ house for the holiday.
Tags: candid, commercial shoot, creative lighting, dry dock, equipment, fill, Framingham, Framingham Massachusetts, image, Jewish Community Housing for the Elderly, key light, lighting, Maine, marketing, marketing photos, Massachusetts, natural light, photo, photos, portfolio, Portland, Portland Maine, Portland Yacht Services, reflector, shoot, strobe, time-lapse video, Timelapse, timelapse video, video, website
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Wednesday, September 19th, 2012
I’ve always had a passion for the outdoors; I love hiking, backpacking, camping, mountain biking, rock climbing and pretty much any other activity that gets me outside. Thankfully for me there is the potential for a lot of great overlap between my passions for the outdoors and for photography. I’ve always shot a lot of outdoor photography, but recently I’ve been making it a focus of my personal work.
The other night I went out with my REI backpacking tent, my 5D Mark II (it’s heavier than my 7D, but the low-light performance is better) and a tripod and hiked through the woods to a favorite spot of mine. I set up the tent, got my camera and tripod ready and waited for the best light, and then shot the image below. Given the unique lighting there was a fair amount of work in post to get this image to look the way I wanted it (the image below is actually a composite of three different images!), but when I was finished I was pretty happy with how it turned out.
(You probably can’t see it in a version this small, but as luck would have it, the Big Dipper constellation is clearly visible in the sky. Click the image to see the larger version!)
Tags: 5D Mark II, 7D, backpacking, Big Dipper, camping, Canon, composite, fun, hiking, low-light performance, mountain biking, outdoors, outside, personal work, Photography, REI, rock climbing, tent, tripod
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Tuesday, July 31st, 2012
I was shooting a timelapse in for a client in Portland, Maine last week, and for one of the camera angles I attached a GoPro Hero2 to the side of a sinkable dry dock (check back in for the resulting underwater timelapse!). If you’re not familiar with the GoPro cameras, their settings screens are on the front of the camera, such that when you’re configuring the settings, you just might catch a couple of images of yourself. This was one such image.
(this is why photographers stay BEHIND the camera!)
Friday, June 22nd, 2012
Purely for fun, I recently picked up a set of inexpensive extension tubes (if you’re not familiar with extension tubes, they’re attachments that fit between a camera lens and the camera body, allowing the effective minimum focus distance to be drastically reduced, which in turn allows small objects to be photographed up-close). I’ve been really busy lately so unfortunately the tubes had sat in their box until today. This afternoon I finally had some free time so I took them out to my back yard for a test drive.
Using my Canon 5D Mark II and Canon EF 100mm f/2.8 Macro IS lens I took a few test shots of things in the back yard (the 100mm lens I was using is already a macro lens in that at its [unmodified] minimum focus distance it reproduces objects on the image sensor at a 1:1 size ratio, so with the extension tubes I was able to get REALLY close!).
All of the images below are uncropped, full-frame images.
(The lizard in a couple of the images was not found in my back yard. That’s Samir, a pet leopard gecko who lives in an aquarium in my living room!)
Tags: camera body, camera lens, Canon, Canon 5D Mark II, Canon EF 100mm f/2.8 Macro IS, extension tubes, Macro, Macro Photography, minimum focus distance, Photography
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Friday, March 2nd, 2012
Canon finally announced the long-awaited 5D Mark III camera body early this morning. My thoughts?
I’m sure it’ll be a nice upgrade when my 5D Mark II dies.
That’s right, I will not be rushing out to buy one of these. I was waiting with as much anticipation for this camera as anyone, and was ready to hit the “preorder” button as soon as the listing came up on B&H. But after reading about the camera it does not appear that its features will be worth an immediate upgrade.
There were a few things I was hoping Canon would include in this camera:
1) a faster continuous shooting still frame rate
2) faster video framerate(s)
3) a better autofocus system
4) higher-quality video recording
1) and 4) were improved slightly, but not much. The 5D Mark II’s continuous shooting framerate is 3.9 frames per second. The 5D Mark III’s is 6fps. This is an improvement, but only by about 50% and still doesn’t even match the 7D’s 8fps. As far as video recording, the 5DmkIII uses a new interframe compression scheme and additional processing which may improve the quality of the video, but it still uses the same old 4:2:0 sampling scheme. 2) was not improved at all (the 5D3 can shoot 720 60p, but so can the 7D and, for that matter, so can a $200 GoPro camera… I wanted 1080 60p, which I think is very reasonable*). 3) really is the only one of these four things that was significantly improved. The 5D Mark III was given the same AF system as the 1Dx, Canon’s flagship camera body. It is a 61-point AF system with something like 40 cross-type AF points (the best kind). Also, it uses a tiny, 1.5% spot metering area (the circle is only 1.5% of the total area of the frame) which is great if you want to expose the shot very precisely for a specific area of the image.
Anyway, again, all in all, not worth buying immediately.
*: The 5D Mark III is equipped with one of Canon’s newest, most powerful image processors, the Digic 5+ (the same processor that the 1Dx contains, except the 1Dx has two of them), so it is very possible that the good folks at Magic Lantern will be able to engineer some third-party firmware for the 5D3 and if so, it is possible that they’ll be able to squeeze additional performance out of the camera. We’ll just have to wait and see on that one.
Tags: 1Dx, 5D Mark II, 5D Mark III, 7D, autofocus system, B&H, Canon, continuous shooting frame rate, cross-type AF point, Digic 5+, GoPro, Magic Lantern, spot metering, video framerate
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Wednesday, August 24th, 2011
We’ve all got favorite places; places that for whatever reason we keep coming back to, whether it’s because they’re pretty, they’re comfortable, there are good people there who we enjoy spending time with, whatever.
The weather has been beautiful in Boston for the last couple of days (with the exception of that earthquake yesterday! Does that count as weather?), and I had some free time last night so I decided to go back to one of my favorite places in Boston for shooting at night.
The Longfellow Bridge connects Cambridge and Boston across the Charles river, and looks out on the part of the river known as the Sailing Basin, because as the widest, most open part of the river, the MIT, Harvard and other university sailing teams, as well as the public all use it as a great spot for sailing small boats. On any given afternoon there are dozens of sailboats on the water here.
This spot on the bridge is a favorite of mine because in addition to the great view of the river, from this vantage point there is also a great view of the Prudential building and the Hancock Tower, Boston’s two tallest skyscrapers, and the bridge faces southwest, meaning it is wonderful for shooting landscape photos at dusk.
For this image, because I knew I wanted both the natural light in the sky as well as the artificial lights inside the buildings to be visible with a nice balance between the two, it was important to wait for just the right light. I knew that would mean in this case that would mean a little bit after sunset, when the sky had dimmed sufficiently to not overpower the artificial lights (sunset photos can be gorgeous, but I’ve found that often the best light is actually after sunset, such as here). With the camera on the tripod and using a wide-angle lens (my trusty Canon 5D Mark II with the superb EF 17-40mm f/4L lens), I stopped the lens down to f/8 because shutter speed wasn’t going to be an issue (thank you, tripod) and I wanted the little bit of extra sharpness that comes with a smaller aperture. Using a remote cable release to fire the camera to avoid shake I fired a few frames to test exposure (the camera’s internal light meter here is a decent starting point but only a starting point) and play with a few different angles. Since I wasn’t using a tilt/shift lens and the camera needed to be angled up to get the framing I wanted, I had to do a bit of digital alteration in post (Photoshop’s “Lens Correction” function) to remove the distortion and make the buildings straight.
The result is what I think is a nice image, somewhat different than ones I’ve taken here before. It is by no means perfect though (if in fact an image can ever be), so I’m sure that I’ll be back to this spot again some time.
Tags: 17-40mm f/4L, 5D Mark II, Boston, Cambridge, Canon, Charles river, earthquake, Hancock Tower, Harvard, Lens Correction, Longfellow Bridge, MIT, Photoshop, Prudential, remote cable release, sailing, tilt/shift lens
Posted in Equipment, Field Notes, Gear, Projects, Techniques | 1 Comment »
Friday, July 1st, 2011
Ah, it’s that time of year. In a couple of days, towns and cities all over the country are going to be having fireworks displays, and I have to say, cooking out on the grill with friends & family then sitting in the grass watching fireworks is one of my favorite things. Fireworks are beautiful and make for beautiful, striking and colorful photographs, but they’re also technically challenging to photograph well, primarily because there isn’t a whole lot of light.
If you’re planning to take pictures of fireworks this weekend, there are a few things you can do to make your pictures much better.
#1: Camera Support. Because it’s nighttime and there’s very little light, the camera is going to need a very slow shutter speed (ie, a long exposure) to get enough light to properly expose the photo, and therefore needs to be held very still to prevent the picture from being blurry. It is very difficult to hold the camera steady enough in your hand, so you need to use something else to keep the camera from moving during the exposure. The most common kind of camera support is a tripod: if you’ve got one and are able to carry it with you, great. That’s your best option. If not though, there are other things you can do to steady the camera: anything you can rest the camera on can be used to steady it – this could be a backpack you put on the ground and then the camera on top of; a jacket you ball up, or even a fence rail, window sill or other fixed structure that the camera can sit on.
#2: The longest exposure you can manage! In the photo above, there are at least a half a dozen individual fireworks exploding. They didn’t all go off at the same time! By keeping the camera exposure as long as you can, you can pull off a trick: since the fireworks are so bright against the night sky, one going off after another after another will have the effect of “layering” the explosions on top of each other, and the single photo will end up having lots of explosions that happened at different times. The photo above was exposed for 25 seconds, so all of the explosions that happened during that whole 25 seconds show up in the photo. The flip side of this trick though, is that the camera needs to be help absolutely still for the whole time, or else the photo will be blurry, so the camera support above is that much more important.
In cameras that have full manual controls (SLR cameras and other high-end ones), setting a long exposure is easy (with an SLR camera you should also use a small aperture [high f-stop #] to gain a deeper depth of field and allow a longer exposure!). In other cameras like “point & shoot” types that can fit in your pocket, it can be trickier or impossible to set longer exposures (on some models, the “exposure compensation” can be turned all the way up to force the camera to take a longer exposure).
#3 Avoid the smoke. When fireworks go off they make a lot of smoke, and if the air is humid or there isn’t much wind, the smoke can hang around and obscure a clear view of the fireworks going off. If you can, try to pick a spot up-wind from where the fireworks are going to go off, so that the smoke gets blown away from you, instead of in your face. Photos look a lot better without a ton of smoke in them.
#4 Avoid extraneous light sources when you can (or at least figure out how to keep them from being distracting)! Extraneous light sources can be distracting in an image, especially since they’re going to be magnified many times in brightness by the long exposures you’re going to be using. In the image above, there were a bunch of light sources (street lights) that just couldn’t be avoided without really screwing up the framing of the image. I did work though to keep a really, really bright light that was facing straight at me out of the frame to the left. Even so though, you can see the light and lens flare that came from that light.
Good luck, and have fun!
Friday, July 1st, 2011
So I walked over to my town’s local fireworks display last night (right around the corner from my house), and just for fun, I carried along a camera and tripod (of course… it’s just who I am). It was crazy – a much bigger production than I’d assumed: all of the streets were blocked off, there were thousands of people in the streets, food trucks, etc etc.:
No sooner than I had set up my tripod I was approached by a woman who introduced herself as writer for the Boston Globe, asking me who I was there shooting for (in other words, if I worked for another news organization). When I replied that I’m a self-employed photographer and was just there shooting photos for my own amusement, she asked if she could use one of my photos for her Globe article – apparently the Globe “didn’t have budget” to send one of their own photographers to cover the event.
Everyone knows that times are very tough for print media organizations – since everyone is getting their news online, newspapers’ subscriber bases are evaporating and with them go the newspapers’ revenue, which has resulted in terrible staff cuts at just about every paper. But it is a sad state of affairs indeed when a leading regional newspaper “doesn’t have budget” to pay a photojournalist to cover an event on which they plan to publish a story, and this was an example of why I am very, very glad that I am not a photojournalist.
In any case, I was there shooting photos anyway, and since they’d already decided they weren’t going to pay for photography of the event (that much was clear) I told the writer that provided I was given proper credit for the photo, I’d give the Globe one to run with their story*. The writer took my email address, and several hours later via email I sent her a few photos I captured from the evening.
For the Globe’s article, they picked one of the photos I sent, and the writer actually quoted me as well (which I didn’t know she was going to do! If I’d known I was going to be quoted, I’d have paid attention to my grammar!). The article can be seen here: http://www.boston.com/yourtown/news/somerville/2011/07/somerville_fireworks_light_up.html
Here are a few of the photos I shot that night (it really was a great display, and as Somerville Mayor Joe Curtatone was sure to point out, the fireworks didn’t cost taxpayers a dime, since they were funded in full through private donations).
*: I understand this issue may anger some professionals in the industry who rely on paying editorial work. The debate about shooting for pay vs. shooting solely for a credit is not an insignificant one, and it is truly embarrassing for the Globe that they have cut back so dramatically on paying editorial work that they didn’t send a staff photographer or editorial freelancer to shoot something that they thought was important enough to warrant a story. It is a bad time to be an editorial photographer or photojournalist indeed.
Tags: Boston, Boston Globe, Fireworks, Independence Day, July 4th, Mayor Joe Curtatone, media, newspaper, Photographer, Photographing Fireworks, Photography, photojournalism, photojournalist, print media, revenue, Somerville, taxpayers
Posted in Equipment, Field Notes, Gear, News, Projects, Techniques, Uncategorized | No Comments »
Monday, March 21st, 2011
This post is going to be part rant and part (hopefully) helpful information which will (hopefully) save somebody else the time, money and aggravation of going through what I have (it will also, it seems, be part legal primer as it appears I’m going to be taking FedEx to small claims court).
I had FedEx ship a camera lens from California to Boston on Feb. 16. Thankfully, it was an inexpensive one, a Canon Extender EF 2x II teleconverter, which retails for about $300, which is downright cheap as far as professional lenses go. When the box finally arrived here in Boston on March 1 (a week late), this is what it looked like:
I was home when the package was delivered, but the FedEx delivery person just dropped the box on my doorstep and left without ringing the doorbell (perhaps because they knew the package was damaged? I’d say it was a coincidence except that this is the second time they’ve done this, as I’ll explain at the end). So, I had no way of stopping the delivery person to note the damage at the time.
I opened up the package, and sure enough, despite being extremely well-packed, wrapped in many layers of bubble wrap, the lens inside was trashed: the rear lens cap was broken off, with little bits of broken plastic rolling around (these rear lens caps are extremely sturdy and durable… I can’t even imagine the amount of shock it took to break it), the front lens cap had popped off, and both the front and rear lens elements (pieces of glass) were scratched, and there was a dent in the metal body of the lens right where the outer cardboard box was dented.
The glass scratches alone would have totaled the piece of equipment, but the huge dent in the lens’s metal body made it completely unusable. So, I went online to FedEx’s damage claim webpage, filled out the necessary forms, and submitted all the necessary information (thankfully, when I’m shipping something important or expensive I always pay extra for the insurance, in case precisely this kind of thing happens. So for an additional $8.50 or something, I insured the lens for its replacement value, or about $300). After about two and a half weeks without a word of communication (not a phone call, not even an automated email), a FedEx guy showed up on my doorstep saying he was there to pick up the package. What? Pick up the package? Apparently FedEx wanted to inspect the damaged lens, but never bothered to tell me. I hurriedly went and got the lens and the box it originally shipped in, along with the ton of bubble wrap, packaged it up and gave it to the guy (thankfully I got a receipt).
I’m leaving for a long trip in a few days (mix of business and personal, should be some great stuff when I get back!) and would really have liked to have my lens, so today I decided to check into the status of the claim, because once again, I haven’t heard a word. In speaking to the customer service rep on the phone, today I learned that not only had the claim been denied (with no reason given and in fact without even having been told), FedEx has now LOST THE PACKAGE. It was supposed to be sent back to me when the claim was denied for no reason, but the FedEx person told me they don’t know where it is.
So my lens was destroyed, the claim for the destruction was denied without explanation, and now the evidence has been “lost.”
I won’t have time to deal with it until after I get back from my trip, but when I do it seems now my only option is to take FedEx to small claims court to get them to pay for a new lens.
This whole experience would be bad enough, if it weren’t for the fact that this is the second time in a row that FedEx has destroyed one of my packages. Readers of this blog may recall the last incident, in which the FedEx delivery person delivered (and by “delivered” I mean “dropped on the front steps and scurried away without ringing the doorbell” in a suspiciously similar manner) this package:
Those were prints made to be framed and donated to an auction to raise money for a local cancer patient.
So there you have it. Never, ever use FedEx. Both UPS and the US Postal Service are cheaper, have better and faster service, and don’t destroy the things you’re trying to ship.
Sunday, May 23rd, 2010
When these things fail, they FAIL.
Thursday, March 25th, 2010
Take a look at this photo – does anything seem wrong here?
After shooting a portrait for a client the other day, the subject emailed me with an unusual request. Now, in editing portraits in Photoshop, I often trim a few inches off the waists of subjects, remove skin blemishes, etc. This client’s request though, was a new one for me: he wanted me to give him a thicker beard.
Apparently, he had given up shaving a week or so before the portrait was shot, and therefore had several days’ growth of stubble, but wanted a fuller beard for his portrait. In fact, the subject’s beard was pretty stubbly. Here is the original image:
I emailed the subject back that this kind of digital Rogaine would be tricky to do without it looking fake, but nonetheless he asked me to do what I could. I generally don’t like manipulating photographs to such a degree that it crosses the line in my mind from simple retouching (correcting skin blemishes, for example) into outright fakery (which this clearly did), but at the end of the day, my job is to make the client happy. So I proceeded. After my standard, basic Photoshop tweaks (slight Curves, Hue & Saturation and Color Balance adjustments in the form of Adjustment Layers), the image looked like this:
To give the impression of a fuller, heavier beard though, I was going to have to get creative… I decided that in order to achieve a realistic look I would need the texture of actual fibers and strands of hair. So, I identified the thickest part of the subject’s facial hair (which looked to be an area under his nose, highlighted in yellow below), selected it and Identified it as a pattern for the Pattern Stamp tool. Essentially, I was going to use the subject’s own hair to clone in additional hair.
I then used the Pattern Stamp tool to “paint on” the additional hair into a separate layer, varying the opacity from 90% where the appearance would be heaviest around the subject’s mouth, to 10% (in 10% increments) where it would be the lightest, on the sides of his face. The “mask” created by this process is represented below as a Quick Mask, showing the varying degrees of opacity. This process got me close, but didn’t give me quite the look I wanted, so I repeated the procedure using another pattern, this time taken from the subject’s head (highlighted above in green), rotating the selection such that the strands of hair flowed the correct directions. Again, I used the graduated-opacity mask shown below.
The end result came out pretty well – I was able to significantly thicken the subject’s beard, but don’t think a typical viewer would look at the photo and think anything had been altered. Placed side by side with the original, however, the difference is substantial:
As I said above, I don’t like altering photographs to an extent that constitutes fakery (the distinction of which of course is a completely subjective judgement, but which in my mind means going beyond simply erasing an unattractive pimple here and there)… I find it distasteful. But as a corporate headshot, the purpose of this photo is to make the subject look good (this isn’t a documentary or photojournalistic shot), and the job of the photographer is always to make the client happy. With this little bit of Photoshop creativity, I think I succeeded.
(By the way, this portrait was shot on my new Canon 100mm f/2.8L Macro prime lens using my Canon 5D Mark II body. This was the first time I used the lens for client work, and it is fantastic! The lens is so good I think I’m going to have to write another blog post about it when I get the time! For now though, great lens, highly recommended!)
Tags: Adjustment Layers, Canon 100mm f/2.8L Macro prime lens, Canon 5D Mark II, clone, Color Balance, corporate headshot, Curves, fakery, Hue & Saturation, mask, opacity, Pattern Stamp, Photoshop, Portrait, Quick Mask
Posted in Equipment, Field Notes, Gear, Projects, Techniques | No Comments »
Friday, February 19th, 2010
This past weekend I was down on Cape Cod at a photoshoot organized by the amazing and veteran commercial photographer Jack Hollingsworth. Jack is a legend in the lifestyle and stock photography circles, and it was a tremendous opportunity to be able to come down to Jack’s studio and see him in action in person. Jack is an enthusiastic proponent of lots of forms of media, including both video and “new media” like Twitter, Facebook, etc. and his idea for this weekend was to put together a video about who he is and what he does, and showing him in action during a photoshoot.
The video is being produced by my good friend and accomplished Director of Photography Benjamin Eckstein, who makes some great videos. Jack, ever the uniter, brought together a group of vibrant and talented photographers, including myself, Brian Matiash, and Keegan Hobson, in addition to veterans Michael Skeggs and Glenn Bacci. Brian is an HDR (high dynamic range) expert, and Keegan is a wedding, engagement and portrait photographer who has his roots in landscape photography.
Ben and I arrived on Friday evening in Chatham, MA where Jack’s studio is located and he, Jack, Brian and I unpacked and set up a bunch of continuous lights and softboxes that Westcott Lighting had generously lent us to test out. It was a total photo-geek fest, as our friend Paul at Lens Pro To Go had generously lent us a whole pile of extremely high-quality gear (including a couple of 200mm prime f/2 monsters!) to use for the weekend, and on Sunday he even showed up with a brand-new, nobodys-even-got-it-in-stock-yet Canon 1D Mark IV body that we got to take for a spin (yes, I want one).
All of the weekend’s models came to us via the Tonn Model Management agency in Boston and they were all fantastic to work with. We brought them outside onto the beach and Chatham fish pier in 20-degree temperatures and whipping wind, and they handled it like champs.
Back in the studio, Jack had planned several ideas for themes, and he used a number of wardrobe and backdrop changes to keep up the variety. As good students of the digital age, we were rocking all the modern touches – tweeting and blogging in real-time, editing on the fly, processing and posting images as they were being shot. This is the future of photography, and we were in the groove.
I quickly saw why Jack is such an amazing photographer. His inclusiveness, his dynamism and his enthusiasm and obvious love for what he does almost immediately bring out the best in everyone around him. He is easygoing yet professional, and he gets results without making it feel like work. Everyone has a good time on his set. If ever there was a recipe for a successful photo shoot, this is it.
Moreover, he listens. He’s had a career of three decades, but it doesn’t stop him from paying attention to the thoughts and ideas of the people around him. Jack likes to say that he doesn’t actually know how to do much (take this one with a grain of salt… he does) but that instead he surrounds himself with good people. Again, if there’s a recipe for producing outstanding results, this is it.
Which brings me to the most lasting impression from the weekend. The Olympics are going on in Vancouver right now, and the thought that kept occurring to me all weekend long was the notion of how everyone (everyone) benefits from teamwork. Just like the hockey teams flying around on the ice, each of us had unique skills and specialties that, shared with the group, benefited everyone. As a team, we were all stronger than any of us were individually. I feel like photographers too often think of each other as competition, but the world of professional photography is so large, that doesn’t have to be the case. In fact, I came away from the weekend a stronger photographer, and I believe everyone present did.
Everyone came away from the weekend with fantastic stuff, and I can’t wait to do it again.
Finally, I’ll leave you with some of the images from the weekend:
Tags: 200mm f/2 prime, Benjamin Eckstein, Brian Matiash, Canon 1D Mark IV, Cape Cod, Chatham MA, commercial photographer, Facebook, Glenn Bacci, HDR, Jack Hollingsworth, Keegan Hobson, Lens Pro To Go, Michael Skeggs, Olympics, Teamwork, Tonn Model Management, Twitter, Westcott Lighting
Posted in Equipment, Field Notes, Gear, Projects | 2 Comments »
Friday, February 12th, 2010
I’m a pretty outdoorsy person. I do lots of activities outdoors, including during the winter months, which here in New England can be pretty cold and raw. My hands also get cold pretty easily (I think due to poor circulation), which means that I need to wear gloves pretty frequently. I’ve found a number of different kinds of gloves that are great for a number of different activities- I have gloves for skiing, gloves for hiking, gloves for biking, gloves for snowshoeing, gloves for just walking around town. What I’ve yet to find though, are gloves that are good for outdoor cold-weather photography.
The difficulty is that cold-weather photography presents a somewhat unique set of challenges for those of us with cold hands… it isn’t (usually, unless you’re chasing after your subject!) an aerobic activity, so the gloves need to be warm. But, given the ever-shrinking size and ever-increasing sophistication of digital SLR camera bodies, the controls on these cameras tend to be very small and require precision and dexterity with the fingers in order to operate them. So big, bulky, well-insulated gloves won’t do.
So the cold-weather photographer needs gloves that are warm, but also thin and which provide good enough dexterity to still be able to use small buttons and dials. I was at my local REI recently and saw a pair of gloves called Seirus All Weather Xtremes that seemed to fit the bill perfectly: the advertising on the packaging said they were “as warm as bulky 200g gloves,” waterproof, windproof (good in New England where sometimes the wind is worse than the cold) and still provided great dexterity. I tried them on in the store, and they did in fact provide pretty good dexterity. For fifty bucks they certainly weren’t cheap, but if they would finally end my years-long quest for good cold-weather photo gloves, they’d be worth it. I bought them.
Sadly, after only a few days of use, it was clear that these gloves were not my answer. They did provide good dexterity, but they were not warm (my hands got cold almost immediately in 30-degree weather) and even worse, they made my hands feel damp and clammy even when there was no moisture around. They got returned. On returning them though, I saw another version of the same glove, this one called simply the All Weather, that was not waterproof but had one fewer layers and might be more breathable (was cheaper too, at thirty five bucks). Worth a shot.
Turns out these guys have better dexterity, feel somewhat warmer and give me somewhat less of the damp, clammy feeling. Better, but still not great. So while these gloves are okay, I’m still searching for my El Dorado.
Know of another glove that fits this bill? I’d love to hear about it.
UPDATE 02/18/10: This past weekend I was at a fantastic two-day shoot on Cape Cod with Jack Hollingsworth and a number of other awesome photographers (this shoot was so good that its going to get its own blog post… more on that later!). A good portion of the shoot was done outdoors, on a beach and fish pier in Chatham, MA. The temperature was in the 20′s and the wind was whipping (who knows what the wind chill factor was), and if ever my hands were going to freeze, this was it!
This time, in addition to the Seirus gloves I’ve mentioned above, I tried an experiment. I layered my EMS Polartec fleece gloves (don’t pay full price, they go on sale all the time!) underneath a cheap pair of Home Depot leather-palmed work gloves ($10 maybe?).
This combination was fantastic. Both pairs of gloves are snug-fitting and low-profile, so they offer really good dexterity (more than enough to operate the tiny controls of SLRs). The combination was also warm and very wind-resistant. I think I may have found my answer!
Thursday, January 21st, 2010
Yesterday I did a fun, quick portrait shoot for a young entrepreneur and businessman who wanted a professional portrait for his resumé and his personal website. Since earning his master’s degree from the Harvard Kennedy School, the subject has founded a number of consulting services doing business both in the United States and abroad. The client is young, dynamic and technology-savvy, so we wanted a portrait that conveyed these concepts. As such, a traditional head-and-shoulders corporate headshot was too old-fashioned for this application.
Since his experience with Harvard was a substantial part of his background, the client decided he wanted to use Harvard Yard as the setting for his portrait. This presented somewhat of a challenge because while we wanted to capture the overall aesthetic of the school, I very much wanted to avoid being boxed into the stereotypes that come along with many people’s perceptions of Harvard. So, we had to use the setting subtly, so that the image didn’t scream “Harvard!!”
I went down to Harvard Square the day before the shoot scout out a couple of locations and see what might work well. The architecture of the buildings in the yard is quite unmistakably Ivy League, and many of Harvard’s buildings, perhaps most notably its Widener Library, are iconic. Even so, the campus offered plenty of quiet, tucked away corners that could serve very well for my purpose.
The day of the shoot I arrived with a minimum complement of gear, because I wanted to be portable and I knew we would have only a short period of time for set-up. I brought my Nikon camera body, a number of lenses, a small external light unit and a translucent disc light softener with stand. As it turned out, the sky was very overcast that day, diffusing the natural light and making the softening disc unnecessary.
I had spoken extensively with the client before the shoot (something I always like to do, so that photographer and subject can begin to get comfortable with each other, a process that is so important in shooting a good portrait!) so I had a good idea of the concepts he wanted the portrait to convey, so we were able to get started very quickly. I knew that to prevent the image from associating too closely with Harvard I would want to achieve a very shallow depth of field and blow the background way out of focus, so I initially chose a 70mm f/2.8 lens.
We moved around the campus trying different compositions and chatting about the client’s business. I always enjoy talking with people I meet about their backgrounds and what they do. Everyone has got a unique story and I’ve found that if you listen you can learn something from just about everyone. We were on a very tightly limited schedule and as time was running short I wanted to try one last composition. This time I selected my 50mm f/1.4 lens (this is my favorite lens. It yields very sharp images, and has such a wide aperture that it allows extremely shallow depth of field). Usually for a portrait I like a lens longer than 50mm (in the 70-120mm range), but in the location we were working there wasn’t sufficient room to back up (besides, I liked the very shallow depth of field). By now both the subject and I were getting cold and starting to shiver, but we had established a good dynamic and we were comfortable with each other, so I wanted to stick it out a bit longer and see what results I’d get. Sure enough, it was these last few minutes when I captured what turned out to be the best images of the day.
If I had had more time I would have liked to set up a bit of lighting gear (a bounce reflector to fill in the subject’s eyes, etc.), but alas we were out of time. The client had wanted a head-and-shoulders portrait that portrayed him as competent and capable, but that also was a little bit edgy, and I think we accomplished that; both the client and I were happy with the results.