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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Weekly Summary: Shoot Planning, Backyard Critters, Inspiration for Photographers and a Humanitarian Question

Last week I had been concentrating on making a Pinterest board that is useful to anyone planning on having family portraits (or otherwise,) and of course I got distracted and made a few other posts to my social media pages. There are some adorable photographs from my efforts in befriending animals that visit my yard for seeds, a video share from Chase Jarvis (Creative Live) interviewing a famous photographer about storytelling images and a simple call for comment on an idea to help the homeless.


A Resource for Planning Family Portraits

I want to help people get the most out of photography, even if they don’t think I am the photographer for them, so I started a board on Pinterest that will serve as a collection of ideas and inspiration when planning portrait sessions.

So far on my Family Portraits Pinterest board there are several articles about dressing for a portrait shoot.

The first and second articles that I shared were more colour palettes and clothing suggestions than anything. They are great for getting an idea of what it means to match colours together and how the amount of certain tones should be controlled.

The third article, 10 Tips for What to Wear for Family Photos, offered some ideas used when deciding on what to wear.

The fourth and final article about portrait clothing from last week was a list of “don’t”s. I’m not a huge fan of “do not” lists, because I don’t think anyone should compromise their character entirely for a photo shoot, but the list has some ideas as to why you may not do certain things. However, if you really want something, go ahead and tell this list “Phooey!”

Later in the week, while “enjoying” shopping for makeup, I added an article about planning the location for your portraits. It’s a short article, a list of the decisions a family made for their yearly portraits. It goes to show that inspiration can be found just about anywhere.


My Struggles in Befriending the Forest Critters

I live in a house that is backed up onto an island of forest and wetland. Squirrels, birds and other critters often chase across my backyard looking for food. For the last two years, around spring time, I have attempted to attract more to the yard and get close enough to photograph them.

I made a few posts on my Facebook page about my progress, but here are the best images so far:

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The chipmunk is by far the most trusting of me so far, but I think I’ll have a good closeup of a chickadee soon.


Capturing Storytelling Images

A storytelling image is one that has content more than a subject and an expression. Their actions or their placement suggests something about them. We learn more about them and their situation from looking at the photograph. The image tells us a story.

Chase Jarvis (a photographer) from Creative Live (people helping creative people with creative stuff and business and stuff) spoke with Joe McNally (another famous photographer) about his method in capturing storytelling images. See the video below for his sage advice on getting images with content:


Is Giving the Homeless a Mobile Home a Good Idea?

OK, not like, a big motorhome or anything. A compact, cozy semi-circle that you can tow behind your bicycle.

This article shows the construction behind a creation by a man named Paul Elkins. It’s a fairly rudimentary project as far as construction efforts are concerned, and can be completed for about $150. Now, for the “I have a bug-out bag in case the whole world goes sideways and I have to get out of the city really fast” lunatic inside me, this thing is awesome. WAY better than sleeping in a tent through rain and cold.

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elkinsdiy.com

I see something different for this, though. What if someone were to gift a micro-trailer to a less fortunate person, someone without a consistent roof to begin with? It’s a simple DIY project that might be completed on a weekend for quality time with the kids, but you could provide someone with a level of value that I could not even comprehend.

So what are your thoughts? Is this a terrible idea for helping our homeless?

 

Well, that be all, folks! See you next week!