A Bit of a Review: Some Photos from the Last Few Months

Hey there! I hope you get some value from this. I’m not great at sharing often, so I’m going to engage in more experimentation from now on. This post is a collection of photographs from my last few months. Just the ones I thought worth mentioning. If you want more details about how they were taken, please ask! I’ll try to detail more about the photographs in their own article.

This is my aunt’s pooch Chupie, or Chup-Chup. His name is some word in Polish for “messy hair” or something or other, I couldn’t find the word. We call him Chup. He’s a little guy, but he loves the deep snow. And barking at his own pictures on the television.

The first photograph was taken inside from across the room. The Sigma APO DG 70-300 is a fun lens, but it is very slow. At a price point around $300, it is great to learn on, but it is not an indoor, low light lens. It is already very slow, with a maximum aperture of f/4 (that it is rarely, if ever, capable of using, so let’s call it a 5.6) but I believe they added a polarizing lens for internal glass, further reducing its ability in low light. It has taught me a lot about using telephoto lenses over the two or more years I’ve owned it, but I’m ready for an upgrade.
My conversations with concert photographers always lead to the “embrace the grain” comment, but I’d rather not use 6400 ISO. Ever.

My preference.

I should mention that all photographs are taken with crop-sensor cameras. Most likely the Canon SL1, but possibly the Canon XT. The focal length information is not accounting for the multiplication of the crop factor.

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f/5.6, 1/250 sec, ISO6400, Sigma 70-300 APO DG at 250mm, processed for contrast and noise

The second photograph is less of a challenge. Outdoors in high sun, the Sigma is in its best conditions. Lots of light to work with, though a bit hazy, so I had to stick it out at 400 ISO. I photographed Chup last year gallivanting through the snow, so I knew I needed to add some depth of field. f/11 may have been overkill, I could have probably made due with f/8 (to my knowledge, often the sharpest apertures for any given lens model) but with the added effect of the telephoto, and the challenge of the cold, I didn’t want to risk it. Even this photo needed some sharpening.

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f/11, 1/500 sec, ISO400, Sigma 70-300 APO DG at 300mm, cropped, processed for contrast and sharpness

On a separate occasion, Football got Christmas photos. She is my most available and most agreeable subject (so long as she thinks she’s getting fed after) so she appears in test photographs often. This was a set I put together for some kid photos.

There are two strobes with softboxes, I believe on either side of the subject at roughly 45°. The intent was to get a fairly shadowless subject. The shutter speed is so long so that the lights on the tree stand out and provide some illumination of their own.

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f/5.6, 1/4 sec, ISO100, Canon EF-S 18-55mm at 50mm, processed for… plenty.

This is just a fun snapshot. She likes to pose like an ornament by the door. Only sometimes trying to sneak out. Mostly because there is nothing else there, and therefore it must be for a cat. It’s also above a heating vent.

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Moving on to January, Football helped me test out a new backdrop system. I’m moving more towards professional headshots, and I wanted something very compact, simple and quick to set up. My previous backdrop system involved two 8′ folding stands and a crossbar, and (ideally) a 20lb sandbag for each stand. Then the backdrop, which was either cloth and held up by clamps, or seamless paper. The cloth is wrinkly and impossible to manage while transporting, and the paper is bulky and annoying. My new collapsible system only has one stand, a clip, and the backdrop. It’s smart to add the sandbag.

Being as this is a studio-style photograph with speedlights, I have greater control of image quality. One light hits the backdrop and makes it seamless white (except for the vignetting towards the bottom, as I was using a superfluous lighting modifier) and my fancy-new, fandangled ETTL speedlight shoots through a white umbrella and hits the subject. With an aperture of f/8 I have plenty of sharpness from the front to the back of the stool. I probably could have done with f/5.6, allowing for less power from the flashes and therefore more shots, had I needed them.

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f/8, 1/200sec, ISO100, Canon EF-S 18-55mm at 30mm, cropped and processed for contrast and sharpness

Did I mention I got a fancy-new, fandangled flash? I’ve been using a Yongnuo YN-560 II for a few years now, and it’s been great, but it has no automatic features. This means that I miss a lot of shots, especially with finicky subjects (like birds.) Sometimes, they see a flash and they fly off, leaving you no option to calibrate until they land in the same spot again. If they land in the same spot again. I recently upgraded to the YN-685, which has a very reliable and fast ETTL system, and I am so happy. I do a lot less thinking and a lot more shooting now.

I still can’t get close to these little black birds, though I haven’t been filling the feeder since the summer. I got a bit annoyed with the squirrels, but I’ve moved the feeder to the front of the house near the porch where they can’t get to it. The birds perch in this tree and stare me down as they decide whether the seed is worth the risk. One of the houses in the back has nice, warm coloured bricks, so new the location isn’t horrible.

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f/8, 1/200sec, 400ISO, Sigma APO DG 70-300mm at 300mm, Yongnuo YN685 External flash on ETTL, cropped and processed

The next is the sharpest image I was able to capture. It’s actually pretty impressive, as I was able to crop in considerably. In this and the next I set my camera to record the ambient light one stop darker than it normally would using exposure compensation. To do this easily in changing light conditions as I focused on different locations, I needed an automatic mode. I used aperture priority, set my aperture to f/8 to maintain reasonable depth of field with a telephoto, the camera decided on the correct shutter speed for a one stop under-exposure, and I used auto-ISO to give it more play.

This is an interesting concept, because it helps cement the difference between exposure compensation and flash exposure compensation. Either one you can adjust on the camera, if you have a flash that handles advanced functions. My decision was to let the background be darker than my subject, so I adjusted the exposure compensation. I need not touch the flash exposure compensation, because the flash is still evaluating the scene separately and deciding, based on the camera settings, how best to light the subject for a “correct” exposure. Essentially, my background was exposed at -1 stop, and my subject at 0 stop for this, and the next image.

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f/8, 1/125sec, 400ISO, Exposure Compensation to -1, Sigma APO DG 70-300mm at 300mm, Yongnuo YN685 External flash on ETTL, cropped and processed

He was moving too fast for the shutter speed used, but the flash helped me catch enough detail that I am still happy with the photograph. I need to experiment more with the flash’s high-speed synchronization feature. So far I haven’t been able to get a satisfying result, but it would help with the birds.

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f/8, 1/125sec, 400ISO, Exposure Compensation to -1, Sigma APO DG 70-300mm at 300mm, Yongnuo YN685 External flash on ETTL, cropped and processed

I’m sleepy, so that’s the end for now. I hope you enjoyed the photographs!

 

I should let you know: the links to products in my articles are affiliate links. You are not charged extra for using them, and I would really appreciate it if you bought products through them, as I’ll get a little kick-back for it. Thank you!

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A Course in Photography: Shutter Speed

A Course in Photography, Section 1: The Photographic Triangle, Chapter 2: Shutter Speed

I know, I know, not a lot of photos for a photography blog, right? I am working on getting more visuals for these posts, but for the most part I want to get the articles fleshed out and then go searching for images. I hope you are able to understand the concepts while the posts are in their infancy and devoid of pictures!

A Course in Photography is, first, going to detail the most rudimentary functions of a camera. Those functions are often called “The Photographic Triangle,” as there are three things that govern the general appearance of a photograph. Mastery of the triangle is one thing that sets SLR users apart from cell-phone toting selfy snappers. There is the shutter speed, the aperture, and the ISO. Please be sure to comment or message me directly about things you would like to know about!

People love to talk about aperture. Maybe because “aperture” sounds cooler. Shutter speed, however, is often one of the main reasons that someone may botch an image — check out my article on Handheld Photography for more on that. Understanding the effects of fast and slow shutter speeds can be the difference between a sharp image, or a ruined one. An artistic blur or a standard, boring snapshot.

Shutter speed has intense power. A fast shutter speed like 1/3000 of a second can stop a 90mph baseball in sharp detail. A super slow one can turn the hustle and bustle of a mid-day intersection into a desolate blacktop mixed with trailing lights.

Follow a moving subject with the camera and a mid-speed shutter like 1/15 sec and everything behind and around will blur, allowing the subject to jump out of the photograph.

Let’s start with what you might find on most DSLR cameras (and film! The photographic triangle goes way back to the beginning!) Shutter speed is rated in seconds, or, most often, fractions of a second. Most cameras will shoot from 30 seconds to 1/3000 of a second. For longer shutter speeds, bulb mode is used. This is best used with a shutter release, or timer, and a tripod to avoid moving the the camera while it is exposing the image. To get sharp detail from front to back in the night-time image below, a small aperture was used and this required a shutter speed of around 8 minutes.


Your shutter speed is the length of time that your image sensor is exposed to the scene you are photographing. Dark scene? Long shutter. Bright? Short shutter. Those are unavoidable guidelines, though sometimes it’s necessary to bend the rules and make a very long exposure of a very bright scene by using neutral density filters.

Before a photograph is taken, the photographer needs to decide what they want it to look like. If they want blur or super sharp detail from moving objects. Mostly, I find, when considering the photographic triangle (shutter speed, aperture and ISO), one must decide on the most important factor, and compromise on the rest. That’s just the reality of shooting ambient light (what is naturally available) and even flash has its limitations (your wallet, and sometimes the strength of your back).

I hope that’s all you need for a basic understanding of shutter speed, I’ll share more details later and suggestions from different sources. If I’ve left you with any questions, please leave them in the comments!

Understanding the whole triangle will allow you to decide what are the most important effects based on your artistic intent.

Read Chapter 3: Aperture soon! You can like my Facebook page to find out when I have posted new article, or when I’ve added photos to an existing one.

Destination: Dundas, Ont. Day-Trip Hiking

“The search for something to do.”

More photos coming eventually! I’ll let you know from my Facebook page when I add more!

The above panorama is from the highest view over Dundas, Hamilton, Ont. taken on December 27, 2015 at a sight called Dundas Peak. It’s a short walk through a forest path off of Harvest Road, Passing Websters and Tews Falls along the way. Unfortunately, it is no longer possible to pass easily between Websters and Tews falls as a fence has been built between them.

Take Short off of Harvest all the way through to the dead end parking lot, and Websters falls is footsteps away. To access Tews, park in the lot off of Harvest. The lots are monitored via by-law officers, and parking is roughly $10 a day, payable by cash or credit. According to conservationhamilton.ca, a shuttle is available from alternate parking at the Christie Lake Conservation Area on holiday weekends.

Tews is an Amazon-looking falls along Spencer Creek. It’s about ten metres shorter than Niagara Falls and spills into a heavily forested gorge. The flat rock face doesn’t stretch much past the falls itself, but the escarpment ridge allows hikers to walk along either side for fantastic views.

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Canon Rebel SL1 | Canon EFS 18mm – 55mm | f/22 | 1.3sec | ISO 100 | December 27, 2015
Continue up the stairs past Tews falls and hike along the wooded path to find the cliff that overlooks Dundas. The path is somewhat maintained, but roots and debris from trees are often obstacles. For those with pains, balance or age holding them back, a set of hiking poles will make the trip safer, easier and more enjoyable. It is not an even path, there are many inclines.

The park is especially scenic in autumn, when transitions in leaf colour cascade through the gorge below.

Standing atop the rock face I often stop for a hot drink from a thermos and stare out at the city in the distance, or down at the skinny creek trickling away from the falls a few kilometers in the distance. Families stop in quickly, couples sit on the rocks and embrace in the seclusion, adolescents crush beers and get loud (hopefully they clean up after themselves,) but for the most part this is a quiet, and if you are lucky, private spot to reflect.

An Incredible Insight into Photography both Modern and Vintage-Not-Forgotten

This video shows off amazing photographs and offers an inside-look with commentary from the professional photographers themselves.

This Week In Photo podcast/vlog/whatchamacallit Behind the Shot with Steve Brazill closes its first year with a compilation of the incredible works by over 20 photographers featured through 2017. In this closer video each image is re-visited in full screen and accompanied by a bite-sized chunk of Brazill’s interview with the photographer.

In the full version videos from this series you may be amazed by a stunning aurora image captured with little to no digital processing (it could have been captured with film,) the determination of a backpacking film photographer and the complexity of a rebellious capture of a museum space made from many hundreds of photographs stitched together.

Put your phone down and load up the biggest screen you have, I know from following for the later part of this year that some of these photographs have a lot of detail!

How to Trial and Error Through a Three-Light Studio Setup — A Hippie Sitting On A Stool, Grinding Rocks. Why? Who Knows! He’s a Dog Toy.

I do a lot of trial and error when I set up my lights for a studio shoot. This article details a three light setup, and features a hilarious model.

Last night, I photographed a hippie sitting on a stool grinding rocks. They’re actually, most of them, classified “Semi-Precious Gems.” I gave up on a Halloween party that I got a last minute invite to because I have a shoot scheduled today for a cute kid, and I wanted to be awake for it.
The way the night went, I figured I should set up the lights then instead of when I woke up. I’m probably not awake yet. I’ve scheduled this post for 10 am and it was almost 2 am by the time I was finished writing it.
I’m bad at waking up.
After an hour I think I had the lighting structure, position and ratios set up.
All images are taken at f/5.6, 100 ISO, 1/200 sec. I like to include some depth of field when photographing closer up, and though you may not see the effects in the following images, it would be apparent if I were photographing the hippie and not the whole stool. Maybe I’ll show you at the end.
First shot is fill light alone, he’s my master light that tells the others what to do. All it does for the image is fill in some shadows so the image isn’t so contrasted. It’s directly over my head, pointing straight into the image. Softbox on a boom arm. I looked at my histogram on the back of the camera to decide if it was at a good power and even with a solid black backdrop there wasn’t any clipping.
Don’t worry, I’ll give you a side-by-side for the images at the end of the article so you can see the changes between each one easier.
Oh, all images are straight out of camera, too. I haven’t retouched them in any way, other than to convert them to jpg with Camera Raw. The banner image is touched up.
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Next image includes the key light, the closest and most (apparently) powerful light in the image. This one is about 45° up and right of the subject (facing the photographer.) It’s a little above my strobe’s minimum power (same with the fill.) I wish I had more space and could separate the subject from the background a bit more, limiting this light’s effect on the background. It’s also firing through a softbox.
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The third image includes the background light. A speedlight with a snoot (it focuses the light into a circle shape.) This one helps separate the subject from the background, and helps the eye find focus in the image. In the side-by-side at the end of the article, you can see my progress in deciding what power to have this at. Ultimately, I liked it at a reduced power, giving a subtle effect on the background. The last image is my favourite, and the settings used for the banner image on this post.
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Here’s the edited hippie from the banner image where you can see some depth of field. The rocks in front are not as sharp as he is, even though I added a great deal of sharpening in Camera Raw. This, like the splash of backlight, helps the eye find focus in the image. It’s subtle, but it’s there.

 

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Revive Film Slides! Convert Them To Digital With Tools You May Have At Home

I got an email newsletter from Jeff Cable, a fairly talented and accomplished photographer (#understatement) and he described a DIY method to convert film negatives to digital.

Here’s a link to the original post where he describes the method and some finer points.
Basically, you need a camera, tripod, clamp of some sort to suspend the negative, and a computer monitor. A macro lens will get you better results, but I expect a reasonable quality can be gained from stock equipment.

If you’d rather not do it yourself, get in touch with me and I can help you out!

Pet Photo Fundraiser! Bring your dogs and get professional photos to help dogs in need

Have your dogs photographed professionally and help dogs in need! One time event, limited spots, Kitchener, Ontario.

Good golly gosh I haven’t posted about Jennifer Dupuis’ fancy pet photo event on my main site!
I’m helping her put together a mini-shoot series aimed at helping a dog rescue non-profit called Fetch and Releash

If you’d like to book a spot to have your fur-baby photographed professionally in costume, fill in our booking survey.

For more information and updates, check out the Facebook event page.