Borkware Photoblog

May 28, 2009

Snoot me, baby

Filed under: flash — Mark Dalrymple @ 11:19 pm

I made another cheapass snoot tonight (duct tape and a cereal box), but I made a grid spot using a bunch of drinking straws.

Here’s the regular flash pattern (28mm, sitting on floor and aiming at ceiling, SB-800 flash zoomed to 105mm):

D31_8305.jpg

And with a snoot (about a foot long, total):

D31_8306.jpg

And with the grid spot:

D31_8307.jpg

January 4, 2009

New Gallery: Casino 2008

Filed under: Aperture, CLS, D3, flash, gallery, monopod, Nik, Nikon, Photoshop — Mark Dalrymple @ 10:53 pm

solo-angel.jpg (click the picture to visit the whole gallery)

Every year, the Casino Theater in Vandergrift PA puts on a Christmas program. Sometimes it’s a musical, sometimes it’s an oratorio. This year was a smorgasbord of songs and skits.

They were kind enough to let me run around with a camera during the dress rehearsal this year. They even allowed me to use flash, which was a surprise.

These were shot with a Nikon D3, with 70-200 f/2.8 and 24-70 f/2.8 lenses. An SB-800 flash served as a master to an SB-600 slave, positioned behind an umbrella to provide extra light. I was surprised at how much light it could pump out. I used a monopod with the larger lens since the whole package (D3, SB-800, lens, extra blocks of depleted uranium) became rather heavy.

Important lesson learned: It’s better to have a very good exposure at a high ISO than a bad (under)exposure at a lower ISO. Some of the images that I had to pull out of a dark basement did not look good at all. (I know, duh!, but it’s one of those things I had to learn the hard way.)

After the images were made (~900 during the 3 hour run of the show, running up and down stairs from balcony to main floor level), I triaged the images with Aperture. 1-star for adequate sharpness and composition. Then went through and chose good shots for 2-stars, and then 3-starred the ultimate contents of the gallery.

I edited each image in Photoshop using Nik filters. This was an excuse for Extreme Photowankery™, as well as learning how to use the filters, and playing around with a basic Wacom Graphite tablet that Uncle Google gave me. The general workflow was

  • Basic ACR adjustments, white balance, etc.
  • Noise reduction with Dfine.
  • Pre-sharpening with Sharpener Pro.
  • Adjusted lighting and colors with Viveza. I love Viveza. In nearly every case I darkened the stage and brought some brightness to the actors.
  • Retouching, especially cleaning up the stage floor. The Casino stage is filthy. I am now a master of the spot healing brush and the clone-stamp tool.
  • Dodging and burning using an Overlay layer. (fill with a neutral 50% color, then paint in white to lighten and in black to darken the image.)
  • Additional filtering using Color Efx pro. “Darken/Lighten Center” was used for most of the vignetting effects. “Tonal Contrast” was frequently used, especially to bring out detail in clothing.
  • The black and white images were done with Silver Efx Pro.
  • Final sharpening with Sharpener Pro.

I’m hoping next year they’ll let me shoot again. If they do, this is what I’d do differently:

  • Attend one or two more rehearsals. I had no idea what the show was about (except that there was a Waltz of the Flowers that included Bubbas in tutus), so each scene was a total surprise, and I frequently had the wrong lens. “Big dance number! And I have the 70-200. ack!”
  • Have two speedlights, one on either side of the stage (instead of the single one on stage-right) to balance out the speedlight coverage.
  • Watch the corners of the viewfinder. (another duh!) There is a railing in the balcony that appears in a number of shots. I did not notice it (outside of using it to not fall off the balcony) until after I started processing the photos.
  • Bring the power plug for the laptop and some blank DVD medio. I ran out of power before draining the last card. A show representative also wanted some images to display in the lobby, needing the images ASAP. It would have been nice to have been able to burn a DVD of rough-cut jpegs right there.

February 11, 2008

Just Finished Reading: Nikon AF Speedlight Flash System

Filed under: Books, Buy It, flash, Nikon, technique — Mark Dalrymple @ 6:24 pm

238657EF-7181-4546-9C5E-D16D2ACD93FC.jpg

Rating: Buy It

I’m shooting a friend’s wedding in a couple of weeks. After doing some test shots in the church, I decided that I should invest in a flash unit (I ended up getting a Nikon SB-600). The instruction manual that came with the flash is a typical Nikon manual : lots of information, but not in a useful format or presentation.

I had seen the Magic Lantern Nikon AF Speedlight Flash System at the local Barnes N Ignoble, and even flipped through it once or twice. After getting the SB-600 and its manual, I stopped by the store and picked up a copy of this book. I’m glad I did.

Speedlight covers the history of Nikon flash systems, from the early film speedlights up through the modern SB-600/800 models. There is a good introduction to the Nikon nomenclature and how it has evolved, as well as coverage on specific flash and camera models and the specific features that each has.

The only downside to the book are some editing here and there (some “insert three-tree graphic”, and a confusion of ‘principal’ and ‘principle’, plus some poorly edited sentences), and the actual photos in the book. The author apparently was under the impression that the book was to be produced in color. The photographs themselves are a very blocked-up black and white. Luckily for the fill-flash illustrations, it’s still possible to see what’s going on.

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