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Just a quick heads-up that I'll be teaching a small-class lighting workshop in Washington, DC this June 7th. It is part of the Focus on the Story International Photo Festival being held June 7-10.

This class is small — a maximum of 16 people — and we will be shooting all day. It is designed for people who are new to intermediate in their lighting skills. If you are comfortable with shooting in manual mode, you will not be out of place. If you already have some experience, we will happily stretch you out a bit.

If you have your own lighting gear (small flash only, please) feel free to bring it. But you need not, as lighting gear will be provided for the class. Just bring a camera, normal range lens (a kit zoom would be fine) a storage card and batteries and you are good to go.

I teach this class a lot; it's my favorite course. But oddly, almost never in the U.S. In fact, this is the only time I am scheduled to teach a small shooting workshop in the U.S. this year.

Here is my promise: if you show up as an "available light" photographer, you will leave as a lighting photographer. Period. I guarantee it. (In fact, I won't let you leave until you understand it. So if you are intimidated, maybe... bring a sleeping bag.)

The class, which includes lunch, is $230. You need not sign up for the whole festival to take this class. (But the festival has a really strong speaker lineup, and a 40% off early bird discount until March 18.)

Links below, hope to see you there. (Hit me on Twitter if you're coming!)

FOTS International Photo Festival
My Lighting Workshop

How to bounce flash

An elegant portrait of a delightful young woman, Supriya, taken at her Sweet 16 party. With events there isn’t always the opportunity to use involved lighting setups, and to keep the interest of your subject, you need to shoot fast. Yet the results need to look top-class. For this I most often revert to on-camera bounce flash. How to bounce flash – this is a topic we have covered thoroughly here with previous articles. This time I want to I want to highlight an aspect of that – the direction of bound flash – and this is best served by showing a correct and less-than correct examples for comparison. For more tutorials on the topic of bounce flash photography, check the links to related articles at the end of this article.

There are a few things which have to come together for successful portraits – the expression of your subject; the lighting, and the context (or background). This is very similar to the checklist for portrait photography on location. Some things just need to come together to predictably give you best results – and these are exactly the same three factors that were discussed there for great portraits on location … and they remain true for any aspect of portrait photography, whether indoors or outdoors. Or whether it is an event or a photo session with another intent.

When these factors come together – and they should, if you have any control over the photo session – then you are most likely going to get superb portraits. Predictably.  And that is important when you aim to have a recognizable style – you should be able to easily recreate a look and feel which is consistent with the greater body of your photography work.

That first element – your subject’s expression – might not be entirely under your control always, but there is much that depends on your demeanor and approach as a photographer. Some of that has been discussed in this article: People skills for portrait & wedding photographers

Now, about the lighting used here – I used on-camera bounce flash. It’s a simple technique which, when used correctly, can give you studio-quality lighting on location.


On-Camera Flash Photography

On-Camera Flash Photography – revised edition

This book is explains a cohesive and thorough approach to getting the best from your on-camera speedlight.

Particular care was taken to present it all with a logical flow that will help any photographer attain a better understanding of flash photography.

You can either purchase a copy via Amazon USA and Amazon UK, or can be ordered through Barnes & Nobles and other bookstores. The book is also available on the Apple iBook Store, as well as Amazon Kindle. Also check out the Amazon Kindle store.

Learn more about how the cover image was shot.


Most of you will already know that I eschew most of the on-camera light modifiers that are available on the market. The vast majority of them will work against you getting the best results that you are capable of. Just use simple bounce flash. But somehow people want to spend money to try and solve a lighting problem, instead of considering the underlying lighting principles – Direction & Quality of Light.

Here is a video comparison between various light modifiers for on-camera flash. It will go far in explaining why I avoid most light modifiers. In summary – I want to avoid any tell-tale signs that I used on-camera flash.

Here are two photos – the first one is one of my earlier shots of Supriya, but I had bounced my flash too high up. This caused too much contrast, and shaded her eyes. Not flattering. You can also see that the shadow of her nose blends with her lips. That’s not good either. The beauty of digital photography is that instant feedback which allows you to correct your lighting.

Lowering the angle at which I am bouncing my flash – probably about 30 degrees or so up from horizontal, allowed the light to come in from a more pleasing angle. I also turned the flash so it didn’t bounce at such an angle away from her. This more conservative way of bouncing the flash, gave much better results. And this is how we continued shooting the sequence of photos here.

That is essentially it – find the best direction in which to bounce your flash. You want to bounce your flash into the direction from which you want your light to come. Not necessarily the ceiling or a wall. You need to consider the direction which you want the light to come from. That is where you will bounce your flash into.

Here I might have used the infamous Black Foamie Thing, and probably had it on my flash, but it wouldn’t have had a specific effect here. I would have achieved the same results with bare bounce flash.


Photo gear used during this photo session

  • 1/80  @  f/2.8  @  100 ISO



About the specific background in the photograph at the top – obviously it is out-of-focus highlights or light-bulbs. But even then there is a specific course of thinking here. When I photograph these types of events, whether Sweet 16 parties or Bar / Bat Mitzvahs, or weddings, I have to get a few portraits before the event starts. I don’t often start with the longer lens. There is too much distance to my subject. It just works better if the first few sequences that I shoot, are with the 24-70mm lens (and usually around 50-70mm.) This shorter focal length make it easier to communicate with my subject, and quickly build up a rapport … as opposed to using a longer lens and being further away.

When I have a few good images, and I have shown my subject how good it looks, then I might start to use the 70-200mm lens. So here is one of the first images I took of Supriya with the 24-70mm lens. Also with bounce flash. It looks good, but I knew we could get better photographs of her.

I knew that if I worked at 200mm, the compression would make the background appear larger. That’s how it works … if you move your subject a little bit away to create separation, and then you zoom to your longest focal length … the background will appear much bigger in comparison … as opposed to how it appears with a wider focal length, and working closer to your subject.

I therefore purposefully zoomed to 200mm and stepped further back until I got the composition I wanted. Note, I didn’t stand in one spot and zoom to get my composition … instead, I moved back. This line of thought helped get the background I wanted, with those highlights much larger, and out of focus. It isn’t random. It was done with intent. Make your background appear larger (and more defocused), by zooming in to your longest focal length, and stepping back for your composition. Only when you can’t move further back should you zoom your lens. And no, you can’t “zoom with your feet”. That’s entirely impossible.



Applying a few straight-forward techniques will get you consistent results if you apply them with thought. Diligently onsidering your subject’s expression, and the lighting, and the background, is a recipe for getting good results every time.


Video tutorials to help you with flash photography

If you like learning by seeing best, then these video tutorials will help you with understanding flash photography techniques and concepts. While not quite hands-on, this is as close as we can get to personal instruction. Check out these and other video tutorials and online photography workshops.


Related articles


The post How to bounce flash appeared first on Tangents.

This shot is here to illustrate what I write about in the blog below. 
It is not a "finished" "polished" portfolio piece. You didn't pay for that.
We'll fine tune and enhance the final image that the client chooses from 
this set up. We don't routinely polish everything that gushes out of the camera.
There's not enough time for that. But I think this illustrates a point 
I'm trying to make below.

GH5+Olympus 12-100mm f4.0 Pro.

Amy and I were on location by 9:00 a.m. on Saturday morning. We were shooting another radiology clinic in Austin, Texas. Our shot list was ample but that's par for most image catalog shoots these days. These kinds of assignments can be done with just about any good interchangeable lens camera made in the past few years, anything from 16 megapixels to 50 megapixels will work fine. And based on the metadata associated with the files the quality of the lenses you use is a lot more important that the advertising impressive fast apertures. Most of our shooting through the day was done with a wide ranging zoom and it was used almost exclusively at f4.0. That's not f1.4, that's f4.0.

But the unforgiving piece in every scene is the lighting. Nearly every room we worked in had a combination of fluorescent lights, each with their own unique color characteristics and light properties. The long, ceiling mounted tubes gave off a softer, greener light, with a mix of blue. The compact fluorescent bulbs in the recessed ceiling cans had a deep yellow cast to them. Mix them together and you've got a real Rubik's cube of a color puzzle to solve.

The worst set of problems come when you need to photograph a scene like the one above in which you are showcasing an MRI machine. An MRI creates a very, very powerful magnetic field which requires the room in which it sits to be shielded. It also means that any ferrous metal isn't allowed anywhere in the room. The magnetic field is strong enough to wipe out your camera's memory cards and can also damage both the imaging sensor circuits in your camera, as well as the electro-magnets that drive the shutters and aperture blades in modern cameras.

We could not put lights in the room and we had to shoot from just outside the door which isn't the best recipe for composing a great image!

Our strategy was to figure out the dominant light temperature within the room and then supplement, through the doorway and via the heavily screened observation window about eight feet to the right of the camera position. The overwhelming majority of the existing light in the room was about 3,000K with a small dose of green. In most situations (those without MRI machines to deal with...) we'd just turn off the room lights and re-light the room with flash, or our choice of continuous light. But turning off the room lights in this situation meant that the back half of the room would go dark, which would look unnatural.

I filtered a strobe with a 3200K correction gel and put the strobe into a 24x36 inch softbox, positioning it near the top of the doorway, about three feet above the camera. Then we took one of our battery powered LEDs, covered it with the same gel material and aimed it through the observation window. The combination did a decent job lighting our two techs and their "patient" but there is more we can do in post to enhance the photo. We'll select the people and get their flesh tones into a pleasing color range and then inverse our selections and balance the light in the room a bit more. But the filters and the additional light went a long way toward cleaning up a visual catastrophe.

During the day it became (once again) very clear to me that the lighting in situations like this is nearly always more important and harder to achieve than getting the camera gear right. In retrospect I could have shot all day long with one GH5 and one 12-100mm f4.0 zoom lens but over the course of the same day we used five different flashes and three different LED panels in order to get a natural and pleasing look to the light in each scene.

Had we brought a $100,000 Phase One medium format camera and no lighting we would have been much less successful. Color balance works the same across all formats. Mixed light nearly always needs to be corrected. With no lights and a super high res camera we'd have many highly detailed unusable files to play with. Conversely, I could have brought along that old Nikon D2XS and some ancient, manual focus Nikon lenses and, together with a box of strobes, could have done photographic work that would fit into the use envelope of my client, regardless of the media selected for final output.

Everyone seems to couch their shooting needs in terms of camera capabilities but in the commercial field it's generally lighting that rules the day. You can spend a fortune on a great camera and I'll concede that with the same lighting you'll make images that are fractionally better than images made with a lesser spec'd camera. The differences might not make any visual difference at all in most uses; for instance if the images are to be used on websites or inserted into video programming, etc. But for most of the work I do, which is profitable and fun, there is no need for fast frame rates, no need for super high ISO performance, and no need for spectacular resolution. There is always a need for good lighting even if it's just to clean up the lighting inconsistencies of a tough room.

We used a collection of cheap speed lights to do our work on Saturday. Nothing over $150 per light. All of the flashes could be sync'd to radio triggers or slaved from each other. Having five (an investment of about $700) meant I could put them in small places and add light to areas that needed more light without running cables. We use the lights in the same modifiers we've bought for our bigger mono-lights. Softboxes, umbrellas, diffusion disks; you name it.

One thing we lean on a lot is the intertwined use of LEDs with the small flashes. Most mono-light have tungsten modeling lights and when we need to drag the shutter in a combination flash and ambient light exposures used to make the screens on computers or the panel lights on machines glow correctly we get tungsten contamination in our daylight leaning shots. But it's nice to have a modeling light as a work light for focusing. It's common practice for us now to just grab a daylight balanced LED and bounce it off a ceiling, or even off the front end of the modifier we're using for flash. We get the focusing benefits of a modeling light and no color contamination of our mostly daylight flash exposure. Nice when it all works together...

During most of the day I worked the camera around ISO 200 and ISO 400. Using a smaller format meant I could use wider apertures and still get the depth of field I needed to get both techs, patients and machines in acceptable focus. All of our lighting units and modifiers fit into one, big rolling case and, since the battery powered strobes are small and light, we were able to use smaller, lighter light stands which helped us keep our overall footprint smaller and the overall weight load lighter.

Generally, on locations, the use of the camera is never a puzzle or mystery. Use the lens that gets you the composition you want and you are good. Lighting is a totally different story. Some rooms are filled with reflective surfaces that have to be tamed. Lights have to be placed just right for best effect, and all of it has to be balanced so nothing sticks out and beats our viewing audience over the head.

Think you need a kick ass camera? Think again; what you really might need are some kick ass lighting skills. Nine time out of ten it's the lighting that makes you the money.

At the end of the day we'd done 36 different shots (nine locations with variations in each) and amassed 1585 raw files. I can't think of a single shot on which I did not use at least two lights. Usually three or more. We edited the take down to about 600 and delivered the online gallery on Monday. This was our third day of shooting for this client in the last 30 days. We are scheduling additional shoots for this client in April. We must be doing something right.... maybe it's the lighting...

"South by," as it is referred to by locals, started out as a straightforward music festival during which bands from across Texas, and then across the U.S. and now around the world, made their way to Austin, Texas to play for free (or next to nothing) in hundreds of clubs and temporary venues in the hope of being discovered. When the festival started to expand the owners looked to other industries to expand the audiences (and the sale of pricey wristbands). 

Consensus is that the event has peaked. The cool kids find it about as attractive as a sunny Saturday afternoon at a local shopping mall and even the corporations are starting to glom to the fact that the overall festival has gone from trendy to Sears and Roebuck. 

But that doesn't deter the event's owners and promoters who seem to understand that even boring, plodding, participants from the downward side of  the coolness Belle Curve can spend money prodigiously and, since most of the content is more or less free to the producers, why would they stop now? No such thing as leaving on a high note in what used to be the music biz.....

But for anthropologists/photographers there is still a lot to like about the next two weeks (my take is that the official start is March 9th. Yes, there is an education segment to the conference that starts this week but it's a newer add-on and I don't think it really counts...). 

Over the next two weeks the clubs in downtown, along Sixth St. and in the Rainey St. district will be packed with bands playing everything from vintage punk to new age polka. Rabid or vapid fans will be swirling through the street oblivious to traffic as they stay up to speed on schedules via their cellphones which will never veer more than two feet from their faces.

Photographers will head downtown to photograph this year's variations off youth culture, music culture and some will brave the lines to see the good and bad movies that are part of the festival. Like participants in the stock market a tiny sliver of the attendees will actually make connections that will help their careers, everyone else will end up subsidizing national hotel chains, scrounging for free beer and finger food and generally waiting in long lines for crappy entertainment they would never have wanted to pay for at home. All at about $1200 per person for the generic wristband. 

Me? Yeah, I've watched SXSW grow from an extension of the native music scene to a city clogging world event so I'll head down as I have the time to see if there is anything interesting I can shoot for posterity. Maybe I'll catch some K-pop. Meet the next Spielberg. Rub shoulders with the next Fedex-shipping-dog food-delivery-online-start-up. Oh shades of 1999.

The camera of choice for me is usually something smaller and lighter but still capable of good stills and very good video. This year it's probably going to be the Panasonic G85 with the kit lens and a nice little microphone sitting in the hot shoe. I'll remember to pack a couple of ND filters. And to get into the center of downtown along with Austin's temporary 70,000 new hipsters I'll definitely be riding down there on the city bus. Parking a car is so last decade....

Maybe I'll see you down there on Saturday after the noon workout and the coffee klatch. Could be groovy. Want to fit in? Gain a lot of weight and wear a lot of black along with a really crappy pair of sunglasses. 

And don't forget to bring along your corporate mascots....

You can't use that. It's not professional.

This is a homemade florescent bank.  We cobbled it together to use it as a fill light in a giant data center that was all lit with similar florescent tubes.  It worked great.  The images were exactly what the client wanted.  It worked better than thousands of dollars of filtered flash would have.  It cost less than fifty bucks.  It's held together with tape and bungie cords.  There are chunks of cardboard that separate the tubes.  It's not pretty it just works.

Marketing works harder at sucking the individuality out of art and life better than just about anything else except poverty.  When you are poor you have to use what you have at hand.  But when you have enough pocket change rattling around you can get sucked into the whirlpool of "how the professionals do it."  And pretty soon you'll be shooting just like everyone else.

I wrote a column for Michael Johnston's blog, TheOnlinePhotographer, that ran on Sunday.  In it I talked about the Panasonic/Leica 25mm Summilux lens for the micro four thirds systems.  One commenter asked, in so many words, how I could convince clients that "Kirk+G3 = Professional?"
(The G3: referencing a < $550 small sensor camera).

This comes up in every facet of being a working photographer.  It's all based on looking in the rear view mirror of working life. How we did things a decade ago.  That's how it seeps into the current idiom.  The truth is that there's no longer any even imaginary line between what tools are professional and which ones are just screaming fun.  Now that the overwhelming target space for our "visual genius" is the iPhone screen or the website viewed in a coffee shop on a 15 inch laptop the metaphorical sky is the limit.  Not the number or provenance of our pixels.

Here's how I think of the whole subject...

Old school "pro" computer = The big tower with multiple processors and the giant monitor. The rationale: Big files demand fast processors.  The speed saves me time and money...

The reality = Most photographers would find the latest i7 equipped laptops screamin' fast.  And cheaper.  I ditched big computers in 2007 and I've never looked back.  My office set up right now?  A 13 inch Apple MacBook Pro with an i5 processor hooked to a 24 inch monitor.  Runs fast and works well.  

Old school "pro" camera = Canon 1 series, Nikon D3 series.  According the the experts who don't make money taking photographs any camera used by a "pro" must be weatherproofed, watersealed, shoot at 10 frames per second, have a shutter that will last far longer than their interest in said camera, and the camera must be made out of many pounds of metal strong enough to endure re-entry from outer space and impact with the Sonoran Desert at terminal velocity.  In the current space the camera must also have tons and tons of pixels.

The reality = Given that 80 percent of the images go to the web, that very few people make prints anymore and that ever advancing digital technology makes camera bodies more or less disposable there are tons and tons of people getting paid for making images with Canon Rebels, Sony nex5's and other small and delicious cameras.  The size of the body is meaningless as an evaluation of final quality in use.  My current small cameras spank the big, expensive cameras of yesteryear and our clients aren't really pestering us for anything better or more "spec'd."  Twelve megapixels is still the sweet spot for most work from a size/quality paradigm and sixteen megapixels is huge. 

Bulletproof?  The only two cameras I've had that required major service (or any service at all) have been a Canon 1 series camera with a defective circuit board and a Nikon D300 that backfocused everything in the universe.  The smaller, cheaper cameras?  In my small, anecdotal survey?  Much more reliable.

I'll trade face detection autofocus with eye preference over extra seals every day.  Makes my job easier.  Makes the focus better.  If I spent my days in San Diego, dedicated to photographing the Navy Seals in action I'd probably want an "everything proofed" camera but most photographers I know shoot in offices and in cushy suburban neighborhoods. 

I prefer using the micro four thirds cameras when it's appropriate.  They're more fun.  And, for most of the stuff I do the images are just great.  If you shoot sports you need something different.  But that's one of those YMMV things.  For ad guys the whole live view thing is a wonderful.  Do I need an optical view finder? Only to impress my hobbyist friends.

Old School "pro" lenses = The pervasive idea is big, fat, white zoom lenses with f-stops of 2.8 and lots and lots of knobs. Or big, fat primes with gold or red rings around the barrels. Heavy, weatherproofed and beknighted with a string of letters like ASPH, ED, UD, IF, and of course, LLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLL.

Reality? =  While I've got some bigger lenses in a drawer somewhere the stuff I use looks more like fun stuff.  I like little zooms like the 14-45mm zoom I have on my G3.  Or the 14-42mm zoom I have on my EP3.  If I'm lighting stuff the apertures are fast enough.  If I'm outside the lenses are always fast enough.  If I need better I switch to cute little prime lenses (at a third the cost of their bigger cousins)  with apertures that are just as fast as the "pro" lenses but give me a little more focus coverage because of their shorter focal lengths.  But more importantly not having to carry all the prestige around with me leaves me more energy to explore and be nice.

Old School "Pro" lights = Profoto.  Big boxes. Big monolights.  Lots of big accessories.  Many stands.  Lots of sandbags.  Lots of assistants to hold everything together.  In fairness though I should mention that the great middle of the professional market has transitioned to plastic flashes from Paul Buff without too much grumbling.  

Reality? = Most of the images I see could be made with a couple of $100 speedlights and a couple of slave cells.  My five figure project in December was done entirely with three LED panels (maybe $1,000 total).  You light with what you need.  Most pros have a small set of electronic flashes, some portable flashes and a few fun lights like LEDs or florescents.  If you need more you rent more.  The real art is knowing when to turn most of it off...

This pro versus amateur thing is so silly.  When I talk to guys who've been doing it for years I hear the same story over and over again.  They started taking photos with a (fill in the blank/advanced amateur camera) simple, basic camera, shot lots and lots of fun stuff that people really liked.  Went "pro" and bought all the trappings and then spent the next twenty years trying to get back to that simpler time. Why? Because everyone, including themselves, loved the images from the time when the pictures were about the idea or the emotion instead of the magnesium alloy and product positioning.

Remember the early cellphones? Remember when you owned the Motorola "brick"?  Was that more professional than an iPhone?  Could it do as much?

Remember the Buick Electra?  Remember when you owned that Suburban? Was it better transportation than your Mini Cooper or your Outback?

"Professional" is such a lovely advertising buzzword because it connotes acceptance of a defined standard. But what is professional video in the time of the Canon 5Dmk2 or the Panasonic GH2?  Is it still a $50,000 Sony Betacam?  Will it matter on Youtube?  Does it matter on Vimeo?  What if the smaller cameras create files that looks just as good? Or better?  Now you can afford to be a videographer.  Now more people can afford to be photographers.  All they need to supply is intelligence, taste and elbow grease.

In medicine and law "professional" means more training, not more gear.  

Old School Photographer = We conjure up the hip guy in black with a warehouse full of studio space, surrounded by high power popping flashes in enormous umbrellas telling hot models to pout with more energy.  The guy is surrounded by legions of assistants.  Some look at big screens as the photographer shoots.  Some shout out encouragement.  Some flirt with the hot client.  Some flirt with the coterie of hot models waiting in the wings.  Some flirt with each other.  All wait breathlessly for the magic.  All vie to be the next one to hold the prestigious medium format camera.  All wear their black baseball caps backwards. It's only for webcasts, only for TV.  Only for the movies...

The Reality? = For most it's a process of daily marketing, a trip to a client's store or factory or restaurant to shoot.  Setting up a few lights.  Taking good photographs.  Billing reasonable amounts and delivering images that will help to move a client's products and services.  Sometimes they'll bring along an assistant to help carry some gear up the inevitable stairs or across the parking lot.  Headshots in our smaller and efficient studios.  The day-to-day needs of local commerce.

Back to the original question.  Most clients who know the difference between professional camera models are themselves deeply interested in photography and would have shot their own products or people but they needed you to do so because something needed to be lit or people needed to be posed or the client could belay their ego and admit that you routinely found better compositions than they would have and they were willing to pay for your services.

If they know nothing about the nuts and bolts of photography they probably hired you because they went to your website and looked and saw what they needed to see and have/had a reasonable expectation that you'd deliver a similar and satisfactory product.  They didn't see your camera or your lights or your computer when they hired you.  Nor (I hope) did you bring the gear along to your pre-production meeting.  If you want to be considered professional your first obligation is to deliver at least to the level that you advertise on your website.  And the kind of gear you need in order to be able to do that is something that's up to you.  My wife is a graphic designer.  She couldn't care less what camera or lens I use on her jobs.  The final tally is binary.  I got the image she wanted or I didn't.  End of story.

Professional is how you act and deliver, not something you lug around over your shoulder.

In Lighting 101, 102 and 103, we learned to control our flashes. In the Strobist Lighting Cookbook, we're expanding that approach to learn to move in a fluid way between flash and continuous light. Read more »

Photo gear for sale

It is time again to clear out the shelves in the studio, and sell various pieces of photo gear – cameras, lenses, flashes and a bunch of random stuff. Have a look around.

I’m only selling in the continental USA, and the shipping will be via UPS ground.



PocketWizard TT5 & AC3 for Nikon

PocketWizard AC3 Zone Controller (B&H)  $167
PocketWizard FlexTT5 transceiver (B&H)  $69
They have been used a lot, so cosmetically they show some wear and tear.
But they are fully functional.
I would like to sell these as two sets of (2x) TT5 + (1x) AC3.
B&H price: $403 (per set)
My price:  $150 (per set)



PocketWizard Plus II

There were 9, but 3 have been sold.

They have been used a lot, so cosmetically they show some wear and tear.
But they are fully functional.
No boxes or cables. Some have the strap, some don’t.
I would like to sell these at $40 each.

Then I have a bunch of cables for the Pocketwizards to connect them to other flash systems. I am at a loss how much to charge for these. $10 for any two cables? Pick what you need and make me a realistic offer.

These are the Paramount cables. Nice quality with a screw-in PC tip.

This is to connect a Pocketwizard to a Nikon camera that can take the 10-pin connector.  $20 for this one.



Sunbounce mini white / gold  3′ x 4′

Sunbounce mini bounce kit (white / gold) with shoulder bag  (B&H)

B&H price: $215
My price: $130  (shipping not included)

Re shipping: 
This item is long, so will cost a fair amount via UPS ground … so ideally, local pickup at my studio in northern NJ?



Profoto RFi 48″ softbox softgrid

Profoto 50 Degree Softgrid for 4′ RFi Softbox  (B&H)
Opened, but unused. This is in excellent condition.
B&H price: $356
My price: $200   (including shipping via USPS ground to CONUS.)



Westcott Bruce Dorn Asymmetrical Strip Bank – 18 x 42″ (46 x 107 cm)

There is a used copy selling on B&H for $199.
I would like $150 for this.

It is a brilliant design to a rectangular softbox, tapering off toward the bottom end, giving a natural light fall-off.  I just don’t have the space in the studio.

The rods tend to bend a bit with the speed-ring. It happens.



Blow-it fan — for free. Just come pick it up.



Lowel GL-1  LED light

Lowel GL-1 (B&H)  $545 – this is a powerful LED light with an ergonomic grip.
This comes in a handy carry case, with an extra battery and the Tiffen 82mm 80B Color Conversion Filter to convert it to Daylight WB.
The price for an extra battery is $140 on B&H, and the filter is $63 on B&H

My price:  $500 for the entire kit.  It’s a deal!



Manfrotto Snake Arm

The Manfrotto Snake Arm (B&H / Amazon) is a flexible arm, and pivot in all kinds of bendy ways to mount studio gear.
B&H price is $162.
My price is $100



Custom Brakets Pro-M rotating flash bracket

Pro-M rotating flash bracket (B&H)
B&H price is $342
My price is $200
It is in excellent condition, and hasn’t seen much use. Perfect if you are doing event work, and want to avoid that dreaded sideways flash shadow.



Westcott Drop-X frame and two backgrounds. 

$70 for me to mail this to you.  $50 if you pick it up from my studio in Little Falls, NJ.
It is clean and in superb condition – I just don’t want this anymore.

Here is the B&H link to one of the kits:



ioShutter remote release. 

This works for Nikon DSLRs, and if your mobile phone has an audio jack.
Free to pick up from me.



Canon OC-E3 TTL cord

Canon OC-E3 TTL cord (B&H) — $70.  My price $45



Yongnuo YN622N Transmitter for Nikon. 

They sell for $38 each on B&H …. $40 for the two of them, and they are yours. I used them once only.



VCT-288 video monopod

This is unused. (The box was banged up a little bit in the mail to me.)  $50 and it is yours.



Lowel i-D light

You know how much I love using video lights, but now with me using the modeling light of the Profoto B1 as my video light, it is time to let this beastie go – the Lowel ID-light.

The light itself sells for $229 on B&H, and the accessories of course add to it – the big battery, the handle, and the barn doors set. You need all of that!


My price:  $230 (or best offer) for the set  + $25 to ship via UPS ground to CONUS.
If you want, then I can add this Lowepro bag with it for a total of $250.

But I am open to negotiation on this one.



Profoto charger 2-A

Profoto charger 2-A

I’d like $195 for this item, or best offer.



Pico table-top dolly kit

Pico table-top dolly kit

This sells for $99 on Amazon.  I would like $50 for it. It’s cute. It works.



Photo gear that has been sold


Lastolite monopod

Lastolite 91″ monopod 

This thing is really tall! I have the Gitzo that I use now, so this is superfluous for me at the moment.

Amazon price is $90  —- I would like $60 for this, including shipping.


Canon CP-E3 battery pack

Canon CP-E3 battery pack

Canon CP-E3 battery pack —- My price:  $90


Canon 580EX II speedlite

Canon 580EX II flash – with the mod for the Pocketwizard TT1 / TT5

Canon 580EX II speedlight – this one had the mod done that avoids the radio-frequency interference that messes with the PocketWizard TT1 and TT5 transmitters.

My price:  $180 (incl UPS shipping)




Orbis ring flash

Orbis ring flash & mounting bracket

$40 for the set. $30 if you pick it up at my studio.


Novoflex adapter for Nikon to Canon


Novoflex adapter – Nikon to Canon EOS mount

Novoflex adapter – Nikon to Canon EOS mount  – $100 This adapts Nikon lens mount for Canon bodies. It sells for $227 on Amazon.  I would like $80 for this.


Lower Lens Trekker camera bag


LowePro Lens Trekker 600 AW III 

The LowePro Lens Trekker 600 AW III (B&H link) backpack is designed for those huge lenses. I bought it to use for my portable time-lapse setup, and then my adventure in Italy happened, and carrying weight on my shoulder for long distances isn’t something I can comfortably do any more. So it sadly needs to go.  I have used it once only. It is in perfect condition.

B&H price: $200 My  price:  $140 via UPS, or $110 picked up at my studio.




Nikon SD-9 battery pack

Nikon SD-9 battery packs

With the high-ISO noise capability of the Nikon D5 and the fast recycling of the Profoto A1 flashes, I don’t need these anymore. Nikon SD-9 (B&H) — $200 each.  My price $100 each. I have two spare MS-SD9 battery holders. (B&H) — $60.  My price $20. I also have a spare SS-SD9 case.  Come pick up if you want. Or $10 for shipping.


Elinchrom deflector set

Elinchrom deflector set

Elinchrom deflector set  – it sells for $36 at B&H, and I would like $20 for it just to cover postage. It is unused, except for the once I tried it out in the studio. Someone told me it would work well with the Profoto heads, and help with diffusion … but, yeah, not really.

If you use Elinchrom, and live close to me in Wayne, NJ, then come pick it up for free.


Nikon 200-500mm f/5.6 VR


Nikon 200-500mm f/5.6 VR

This lens was used once. I wish I could keep it, but I just can’t justify it at the moment. I would like $1,100 for it, including UPS shipping.

It has always had the filter on the front – so the front lens element is mint. The filter is included.

Here are the B&H and Amazon affiliate links if you really need to see spec:  Nikon 200-500mm f/5.6E VR  (B&H / Amazon)


The post Photo gear for sale appeared first on Tangents.

I worked late on a video last night. Got home around 10:30pm and still had a couple hours of post production to wade through. The video shoot went like clockwork. It was tiring though because I had to pay attention to everything all the way through the run of the play. Monitoring two cameras and following the main actor with one of the cameras means never pausing to actually enjoy the performance. 

At any rate I survived and delivered files this morning after swim practice. I returned e-mails and calls and made myself a lunch and then prepared for my one p.m. call. I was on the line for an hour with a wealth advisor taking care of the boring part of being an adult and owning my own business. I had a weird feeling about the markets recently and decided to move sufficient money into CDs to allow me to sleep through the night. We also fine-tuned some diversification/asset allocation. After that I had to dutifully give full details to the CFO of my company and family. (Literal readers, by CFO I really mean my spouse who is, literally, much more adept at money and numbers than me...).

When we finally wrapped up I was shot, spent, tired, and felt like I'd just spent a week working overtime in a cubicle (apologies to any reader who works in a cubicle. It was a metaphor...).  What better antidote to maturity and responsibility is there than a nice, late afternoon walk through the downtown areas of my favorite city? It was 68 degrees and the skies were central Texas blue. 

I've felt a bit sheepish all week long about having wasted good money on the used Nikon D2XS so, of course, that's the camera I grabbed to take along with me. I'll tell you right off the bat that it's at least twice the weight of a GH5 with a similar optic on the front. My lens of choice this afternoon was the cheap 50mm f1.8 Nikon AF lens I picked up last week (adding financial insult to injury). It's a very decent lens from f2.8 to f8.0 or f11 but then what lens isn't?

As you can see from the image above I've been playing around with the black and white mode which was one of the features I think was added in the upgrade from the X to the XS. It's nice. The screen on the back doesn't do the files justice but they looks pretty in Lightroom, especially if you lean on the contrast slider a bit. Don't bother adding sharpness; they already have sufficient bite...

My goal was 10% about getting a decent little handful of photos and 90% about walking around without a schedule, a deadline, an assignment or a self-imposed goal. It's been a tough year for me as far as family goes and after losing my mom and getting my father situated in memory care it's been all I can do to get business done and then drop myself on the couch at the end of the day where I sometimes just fall asleep curled up with Studio Dog. This walk was the first one done in nice, sunny weather in weeks and the combination of bustling sidewalk traffic, clean, clear sunlight and 60 degree temperatures worked miracles on my recently re-acquired stress and anxiety. 

But what about that darn camera? Deja Vu. It's big and heavy. The rear screen sucks hard. But it focuses like a bat out of hell and the files are rich and satisfying. I remember why it was I had such fond memories of my first ownership of this camera model. In it's time the handling was state of the art. And, at ISO 100 and 200 its image quality might still give current cameras a run for their money. While its 12 megapixels might not give you the micro detail of the new generation of 40+ megapixel cameras I remember an article about "shot discipline" written by Ming Thein wherein he made the point that if you are using a camera handheld, in the street, you'll probably never exceed the image resolution that one gets at 12 megapixels and, that at higher megapixel densities shot discipline (technique) becomes ever more important. Perhaps 12 megapixels won't satisfy every situation but he made a good case for the many, many times that 12 megapixels is optimal. 

Here are a few shots I made shooting the camera at ISO 400, straight to Jpeg. I think it's a marvelous camera as far as images go and I'm trying right now to figure out how to integrate it into our shoot at a radiology clinic tomorrow, along with our GH5's. Maybe I'll bring it along as a "behind the scenes" black and white documentary camera. I've done crazier things.....

Hope your week was as productive as mine --- but a lot less stressful. Hope Mike Johnston can dig himself out of the snow banks! Hope Ben is staying warm in Saratoga Springs. 

I'll end by saying "I'm just an average intelligence, working photographer but I'm happy I've re-allocated some of my meager assets to cash (literally: CDs)". It will be interesting to see what the markets do in the next few weeks. I guess we've never touched on the topic of personal finance here on the blog before. I've always assumed that most of my readers are much more adept at finance than am I. But maybe this will open up some discussion. I'll admit that I vacillate between having a medium to low risk tolerance. Your mileage probably varies. Where do you think the market is going?

Will we be happily buying medium format digital cameras next month or boiling our leather camera straps to make soup? 

The famous electrical pole. With old fashion dust spots in the sky. (Left in for nostalgia. Yes literal readers I do know how to remove them with the cloning tool or the spot healing tool in PhotoShop.....and, no, this image is not intended as a marketing tool aimed a paying clients).

The camera and lens are the same ones I used last night, as are the headphones but
I used different tripods and also the new DMW-XLR1 audio adapter. Added for literal readers. 

I got an e-mail late Wednesday asking if I could help ZACH Theatre out with a video project the next day. We had stuff booked through the midday but the request was to make a two camera, video documentation of the current production of, "The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time" on the main stage. The theatre needed archival footage to satisfy their usage contract. 

I got the message as I was walking into the house at 9:30 pm after shooting all afternoon and evening at a radiology clinic. I responded that I could do the project but would not have the bandwidth to also edit or do post production. "No Problem." was the response. They just needed the raw footage of the show from two different cameras; one for a wide, static shot of the stage and a second one to follow action on the stage. I started a quick job folder so I could make a list of the things I'd need to take along and what sort of pre-prep my gear might need. 

Usually I shoot things like this during the last rehearsals and I like to use external Atomos monitors so I can really see the frames clearly which helps me achieve better focus and is even more helpful with nailing exposure. We would be shooting this project with a sold out house and I would be on the cross through row in the middle of the middle of the house. This meant that there would be paying clients behind and in front of me. We had the house manager take out three seats so I could position two cameras on two tripods. The row behind me starts the upper half of the seating configuration so their floor is at about my shoulder level when I'm seated behind the cameras. Still, I knew the bright Atomos screens would be unacceptable for most of the audience behind me. Sadly, I had to leave them at home...

Pre-prep for something like this mostly means putting all the gear on the list onto a table in the studio and making sure it's work-worthy. Since we need to shoot with two cameras we'll need an extra set of batteries. All the batteries need refresher or full charges. I generally use a third set of batteries in the camera while setting up the menus for specific shooting so I don't start with a partially drained battery in camera. I pull the caps off both cameras, grab a loupe and inspect the sensor for dust. If there's any foreign material on the sensor I use a bulb blower to dislodge it. While I don't recommend doing it I have, on occasion, used canned air to blast something off a sensor but I'm very careful to hold the can level...

If we pack monitors I make sure there are ample batteries and two back-up HDMI cables. 

If I'm using tripods I make sure the quick release plates are attached and the correct tripod screws are resident on the plates. Can't tell you how depressing it is to pull out a tripod only to find that the last user (probably me) left the plate with a 3/8th inch connector attached instead of a needed 1/4 inch connector....

I finished by earlier photographic jobs and packed for the video job with my inventory list in hand. 

I arrived at the Theater two hours before the start of the show, just in case. I set up both GH5 cameras putting the (adored) 12-100mm f4.0 Pro Olympus lens on one and the 40-150mm f2.8 Pro Olympus lens on the other. Both cameras were set to MP4 at 100 mbs, 1080p, 10 bit, 422 color space. The cameras and their attendant V90 memory cards are capable of writing 400 mbs All-I files at 10 bit and 422 but since I wouldn't be editing the material I defaulted to a file size I knew would not be problematic for the editor. 

The camera with the wide zoom was my stationary camera and it was the one on which I put the Panasonic audio adapter. The sound engineers had dropped an XLR cable from the sound booth to my location so it plugged right into the adapter. Important to note that the sound coming off the main mixer (usually) is a higher line level signal. If you run that signal into an input that's looking for a microphone signal you'll almost certainly overload the input and the audio you end up with will sound distorted and crappy. Set you're switch to "line in" instead of "mic." 

The second camera, the one with the longer zoom, got its own microphone in the hotshoe. This provided a sound track that would make it easy to sync footage between the two cameras in editing.

Once the cameras were set the sound engineers played the loudest pre-recorded cue that they would send to me during the evening. I set levels for that and noted the dial position. We then had a quick dialogue rehearsal which showed me where I should set the average level. This is important because in a two camera set up I can't follow action with the longer lens on one camera and set sound levels on a second camera simultaneously. As a back-up the entire audio of the show was recorded from the main mixer in the sound booth by the engineers. 

I then asked to see the lighting cue that was used the most during the show. The lighting designer got a cue up for me and I had a crew member from the theater hold up a white card dead center in the stage. The lights, LEDs with filters, gave a reading of 4600K with a negligible hue shift. I also checked the follow spot and it was balanced within 100K of our average lighting cue as well. 

White balance set. Camera set to show green focus peaking outlines. Exposure and focus set to "M." 

The final step before the start of the show was to balance the fluid head with the "following" lens. Having a well balanced video head makes for smoother moves but if I was too ham-fisted in any one spot we could always cut to one of the wide shots as b-roll. 

Now my job was to start the cameras and then follow the main action with tight framing on the camera with the longer zoom. The first act is about 1:15:00 and the action moves continuously. That means the camera and the focus also move continuously (and as smoothly as I can possibly manage).

I was using 128 GB V90 cards which, based on the shooting codec, would give me about 2:45:00 of shooting time. The two acts combined were about 2:15:00. No worries there. The batteries were both still showing 2/3 full at the intermission but I had the luxury of just putting in fresh batteries and that also meant one less thing to worry about in the final act. 

After the early swim practice (Yay!!!!!!) this morning I got to work transferring the files to a small, milspec hard drive. Each camera card clocked in at about 100 Gigabytes for a total of just under 200. I'm happy I won't be the one editing this project. I think the render time will be agonizing....

I delivered the work on the hard drive to the Theatre offices this morning and sent out an invoice an hour later. Now comes the gear post production during which we pull everything out of cases and charge all the batteries. I don't want to take chances with gear as we have a full day of still photography shooting schedule at a location tomorrow for another client. I can finally say that it's a busy start to the year.

Go video. 

On a related front, the Stephanie Busing Video has been well received and tallied a little over 10,000 views during the first five days of life on Facebook and YouTube. The client is very, very happy and ready to enter into discussions about the next project. Fun with stuff that moves. See the video in a previous, recent blog. 

The "Jenga" Building in Downtown Austin.

People are so painfully literal. It seems that every time I post an article about how I did something photographic, or how I set up a shot in video, I get someone who writes in with the "tsk. tsk." patronizing tone to let me know that "this is not your best work...." "it's a really mediocre portrait" "I expected more...."  I should develop a thicker skin but people who read blogs should develop better reading skills. 

So, I just want to make sure that everyone understands that yesterday's article about stand-ins, and the assistants' role in helping make photo assignments work more smoothly, was NOT meant to be a portfolio of finished, polished work. The images were meant to illustrate the written points I was making in the piece. 

Had the commenter paid attention he would have read (pertaining to the first image) that Amy (my assistant) was standing in for a doctor who would be photographed after we got the lighting just right and after we cleaned up all the clutter in the scene. It seemed to make sense to me when I wrote it but  I obviously must be overlooking something. 

A quick show of hands. Is anyone else confused by the use of the photos in yesterday's post? 

(I didn't have an image to illustrate frustration, and a sense that I'm just writing this stuff to exercise my fingers, so I put in a cluttered shot of a building under construction. This image is not meant to be a classical or formal presentation of the architecture as an art piece. It is meant to convey the visual chaos that layers parts of an urban environment. And no, I won't be explaining the intent of every photograph I post in the future.).

Flash Photography workshops NJ NYC

Photography Workshops in NJ / NYC  (2018)

Here are the dates for the group photography workshops for 2018.
There is the regular workshop on flash photography with speedlights, and a a workshop on studio lighting.
Then there are the 3 dates where we will do the Photo Walks in New York again.

As always, there is the possibility for personal workshops and tutoring sessions which can be tailored to your needs and to your schedule.

Flash Photography Workshop with Speedlites

The fee for the full-day workshop is $600 and the workshop is from 9am to 8pm. Lunch and refreshments are included!

The workshops are limited to 6 people, so that I will be able to attend to everyone. There will be two models with us. The workshops will be held at my studio in Little Falls, NJ. The tempo is relaxed – I want to make sure everyone benefits, and will be a stronger photographer at the end of the day.

The flash photography workshop for 2018 will take place on:

  • July 22, 2018  (Sunday)  –  NJ

For more details and to book a spot: Flash Photography Workshops.


Photo Walks in NYC

With the NYC Photo Walks, we will photograph a model around a colorful, interesting parts of New York City. The group will be limited to just 4 photographers, so it won’t be crowded. We will also work at a relaxed tempo, so that I can attend to everyone and help everyone get amazing images. There will be an assistant to carry and hold the light for us. We just get to shoot and have fun! Here is a recap of a previous photo walk which took place along Brooklyn’s East River waterfront.

I will provide the Profoto B1 flash, and will have enough Nikon, Canon and Sony wireless TTL triggers for the Profoto flash so that everyone can shoot individually.

The $200 fee for the 2-hour photo walk is due at the time of registration.

  • May 27, 2018  (Sunday)  4-6pm  – Brooklyn Waterfront
  • August 26, 2018  (Sunday)  4-6pm – Brooklyn Waterfront
  • October 28, 2018  (Sunday)  4-6pm  –  Brooklyn Waterfront

For more details and to book a spot: Photo walks in NYC 


Studio Lighting Workshop

If you’ve been curious about getting to know more about studio lighting for portraits, but it all seems too daunting or technical, then this Studio Lighting Workshop is for you. The program is aimed at being is a learning experience where you get to use studio lights and light modifiers. After this workshop, I want you to feel comfortable next time you step into a studio, knowing you have a solid place to start from, and have the confidence to experiment further.

This workshop will be held at my studio space in NJ, and it has a wide range of studio lighting gear! It is easily accessible from New York as well, and we can fetch you from the local bus terminal. There is also free parking at the studio.

  • April 22, 2018  (Sunday)

For more details and to book a spot: Studio Lighting Workshops.


Personal workshops & tutoring sessions

If you would like an individual workshop, or a personal tutoring session, those are available as well throughout the year, depending on both of our schedules. The studio is only 17 miles from Manhattan. Just a short hop from New York and quite accessible by bus. Oh, and there’s parking at the studio. Free parking.

If you are limited in how far you can travel, there are Skype sessions and also video tutorials to help you get a much better understanding of photography and lighting techniques.



The post Photography workshops (2018) appeared first on Tangents.

Amy stands in for a Radiologist as we begin the prep of the scene.

I've been working for one large radiology practice here in the Austin, Texas area for nearly twenty years. They are fun to work with and have lots and lots of cool gear that looks great in photographs. Every few years, as the gear changes and the practice evolves, we get to do a series of daylong photo assignments in order to help them build an ever-changing image catalog that the practice's marketing team can use for advertising and public relations. 

Yesterday Amy (my assistant) and I met up at one of the practice's mid-town clinics to make environmental portraits of doctors and health navigators. Our client wanted to use selective focus in the images in order to focus attention on the people and pull attention away from unnecessary background detail. It was an opportunity to give one lens in particular a workout. I used the Rokinon 50mm f1.2 lens as frequently as I could and supplemented with the Sigma 30mm f1.4 when I needed a wider angle of view. The important thing for my was how well each lens worked at or near its widest aperture. In that regard both lenses passed my tests. 

Since we were aiming to work with the taking lenses used as wide open as possible I decided to skip electronic flash and do all of our lighting with LED panels. Working this way made it easier to get an exact balance between the room illumination and the brightness of the reading screens that were somewhere in nearly every frame. 

My method in setting up lighting was: First get the right illumination intensity on the dominant computer screens. Second, set up lights that would mimic the direction and type of light illuminating the face of someone sitting in front of a monitor. In the case above we had a tight space to work in behind the computers (less than a foot). I taped white paper on the wall in front of Amy, behind and above the monitors and bounced a small LED panel off the paper. It made a convincing computer monitor light source that was controllable. 

The next step is to balance the primary illuminate on the subject with the illumination on the screens. This is straightforward as most good LED lights can be adjusted from 10% power to 100% power in tiny increments. After the balance is achieved we bounced several lights from the ceiling to bring up the overall light levels so we could seen into the shadow areas in a believable way. 

Once we got everything lit we started cleaning up the clutter that would be in the shot. We removed the lighting fixture just behind Amy's head, cleared off papers, eliminated the bar scanner in the bottom left hand corner of the frame, etc. Only then were we ready to bring in our physician and start the process of posing and fine tuning. If we are photographing someone in a white coat we keep the portable steamer close at hand to get rid of wrinkles. 

Since I was shooting at or near wide open it was important to go beyond focus peaking and punch in as far as possible in preview mode in order to get a highly magnified section of the frame for fine focusing. I compose the shot and then move the target for focus to the eyes of the subject without moving the camera. Focus and recompose is NOT an option with narrow depth of field....

I've also learned (the hard way) to check focus frequently. When manually focused any sway on the part of the subject might be just enough to kills the sharpness where it's needed. We worked on a tripod for all but two of the shots in our assignment yesterday. It helps. 

Amy stands in for a classic "hallway" portrait. 

Clients sometimes like backgrounds that dissolve away. But with m4:3 cameras making backgrounds dissolve works best if the subject is fairly close to the camera and the background is fairly far away. We found the hallway above and decided it would be a great place to make portraits of busy doctors. 

My first impulse was to block the existing light with a scrim and then re-light the subject but when I put Amy into the location the art director and I decided on I noticed that the ceiling lights were indirect, firing into a white barrel vault ceiling that made the lighting very soft and flattering. All that was really needed was a white reflect just under the bottom of the frame to bounce light back under our subjects' chins. Before Amy set the white reflector in position we used it as a target for a quick custom white balance. When the art director saw the results on the monitor she decided that we could do two other people in the same location. As with the first image I am using a tripod, shooting wide open and re-focusing frequently. 

(Note: if you are using an AF lens in a situation like this, and it's one of the Olympus Pro series, make sure to switch the AF off on the camera body. Using the manual clutch on the lens is great but once you take your hands off the lens barrel  and then touch the shutter button the camera will re-focus your lens UNLESS you have set the camera into MF).

Our biggest challenge in the shot above was to keep people out of the background. While we were shooting after hours we had a bunch of talent waiting for various shots and they wandered in and out of the hallways. A lot. Had the budget been even more generous I would have hired a second assist and tasked them with keeping people corralled and keeping an eye on clients who wander away from the set just when I'm looking for shot approval.... :-)

Having a stand in is great because getting busy doctors to stand still while we change this and that is a money losing venture of the practice and they are not nearly as cooperative in the pre-shooting part of the exercise as a good assistant.

Amy stands in on our "consultation" location. 

A lot of location photography is about moving furniture so it works for our compositions. Consultation rooms and exam rooms are small because....they don't need to be big and square footage in Austin is expensive. But the tighter the space the harder it is in which to light and compose. Our quick stand in shot showed me that we needed to cant the small couch and the matching chair about 20 degrees counterclockwise in order to best show both faces of the talents who would be in our consultation shots. Since the room was tiny and my back was against the wall we needed to have the art director and the talent wait outside the door as we brought in three lights, some modifiers and a bounce card or two. It's easier to put a plan into place if you aren't dodging closely packed people.

The shot above is our starting point. There is a process which involves putting up the lights you think will work and then fine-tuning and the looking, again and again. Better not to bore your subjects or your art directors with too much picky rearrangement; especially when you have a good and patient assistant in tow. 

Our final location. Another spot for consultations. 

We were on our way to another consultation "closet" when we walked past a big, welcoming waiting area and it dawned on me that this would work much better, photographically. I liked the nice, warm light in the fixture at the back-left of the frame and the colors were great. We switched around some chairs and then started lighting by using the illumination of the "practical" light as our starting point. Some top light and a bit of back light from the right side of the frame were just right. I backed up as far as I could and shot with the 50mm Rokinon (which is the equivalent to a 100mm in full frame). 

About two hours into the shoot Amy walked up to me and handed me a bottle of water. "Drink." She commanded. She is aware that sometimes I get into the rhythm and schedule and forget to stay hydrated. It's good to have assistants that are watching out for me.

The entire shoot yesterday was lit with two Aputure Amaran 672S daylight LED panels and one smaller Amaran 96 panel. The bigger panels both use Sony NP970 batteries which are enormous and heavy. The benefit is that we were able to shoot for about five hours and still come back to the studio with at least 50% in reserve for each light. Since both of the big lights take two batteries I also packed two more sets. Just in case. You never know when you'll need to run at full power for long set up.....

I think of yesterday's shoot as a warm-up for our shoot coming up on Saturday. We'll be on location for a full, long day at a different location. We'll have about 12 models and 3 marketing staff with us as well as a hair and make-up person. The client is arranging craft service and, so far, they've done an exemplary job. 

The Panasonic GH5 continues to exceed my expectations ---- as long as I use premium optics and use them correctly. The LEDs are priceless for work like this. But the best productivity on jobs like this is a good assistant who keeps an eye on schedule, clothing details, stuff intruding into the frame and more. Amy is a great assistant! On a busy location it's best not to cling too strongly to the "one man band" concept of production photography.

Hope your week is good. We're packing up for tonight's video project. More on that tomorrow...

If you own a small sensor camera, be it a micro four thirds or an APS-C Sony mirrorless, you might seriously consider picking up one of the absolutely cute and very high performance 60mm f2.8 DC DN lenses that Sigma has been making for a number of years now. This is the third time I've owned this lens. I first bought the early version that fit on the m4:3 cameras but it left in a purge on my way toward the Sony system. One of the first lenses I bought for the Sony a6300 (a high performance imaging camera with a huge deficit of handling comfort) was the Sony version of the same lens. And once I migrated back to the m4:3 system late last year it was a lens I quickly searched out.

Here's why: It's small, light, cheap, fun to look at delivers wonderful and pristine optical performance even when used at its widest aperture. It has a wonderful combination of bite and realism. It's capable of high resolution with high contrast and, one of my favorite lens test sites,, raves about the overall imaging performance of the lens -- across all the systems for which it is available.

For people who need wide angle lenses because they just can't make up their minds about what needs to be included in their photos and what needs to be excluded from their photos it might be a little long (focal length, not physical dimension...). But, if you like to isolate subjects and have definitive ideas about cropping the focal length is very good on the m4:3 cameras (equivalent to a 120mm on a 35mm, full frame camera) and perfect on an APS-C camera (90mm equivalent).

It also has the added benefit of being able to focus quite closely as you can see below. While it won't take the place of a good macro lens it will let you cut out a lot of extraneous clutter while maintaining high sharpness. My impression about the quality of its out of focus areas is that they are some and smooth and very desirable. (See image just below).

The lens comes with a hood and a small case and is around $240. While the f2.8 aperture may seem inadequate for some low light uses the two advantages bestowed by the limited f-stop are: It's fully sharp and usable wide open and it's comfortably small and portable. 

I consider it one of the great bargains available for all of the cropped sensor systems. You should rush out and buy one right away. If it doesn't fit on your full frame Canon or Nikon DSLR camera (it doesn't) then this gives you the perfect excuse to finally get rid of that old clunker and step into the wonderful world of smaller and more capable mirror-free camera systems from Sony (APS-C), Olympus and Panasonic.

I figure that any lens worth owning three times over is a lens you'll probably want to try.

Image from Eeyore's Birthday Party, 2017. ©2017 Kirk Tuck.

I've been playing with the Nikon D2Xs for the last few days---in between shooting real stuff with my GH5 cameras--- and today was no different. I decided to continue my sentimental reattachment to big, fat, old school cameras by venturing out with the Nikon and a 50mm f1.8, just to see how it might affect my image making process. My head was filled with optimistic memories of my original time with the D2Xs and I was out to see if my good memories were more a result of that camera being about as good as you could get at that point in history, and my ability to accommodate its foibles, or, if it was really a wonderful photo instrument.

The body is certainly more solid than the mirrorless Sony cameras I had been shooting with until recently but the GH5 cameras give up nothing to the Nikon in that regard.

I decided to park at ZACH Theatre, which is just across the river from downtown proper. I would walk across the small campus and head over to my usual walking route via the pedestrian bridge. Since I was at the theatre at the right time I followed the groups of people as they entered the lobby in anticipation of the afternoon matinee of, "The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Park in the Night Time."

I stopped in to see who might be playing piano in the lobby bar and to take a look around to see if the life-size posters marketing the upcoming shows had been put up yet. I always like to see how my work is used and how it looks in print. Especially large print.

There are four new, life-size, printed posters up. Two are from the same shoot. That was an assignment I did using the RX10iii and the Panasonic FZ2500. One image is for "Beauty and the Beast" --- it's an elegant photograph of Leslie Anne Leal as "Belle" holding a red rose out in front of her gold dress. She, of course, looks adorable but the surprise is just how good the image looks, technically,  from as close as a three or four feet away. The colors are right on the money and the details are crisp without looking crunchy. Uncropped, the entire frame would be about 4x6 feet. I thought it was a pretty convincing result from a camera with a sensor the size of a thumbnail. I was almost certain it was made with the Sony but I went back and checked and saw that it was done with the Panasonic.

Just a bit further across the lobby was a photograph of an actor in the character of the artist, George Seurat, for the upcoming production of Stephen Sondheim's play, "Sunday in the Park with George." This poster was printed the same size as the Beauty and the Beast poster but it started life as a file in a Sony A7R-ii. While the file was different there were few clues (probably only apparent to me) that the images were shot with different cameras. The posters are classic point-of-puchase-style collateral and they are designed and produced to be seen up close. I will say one thing for consistent practice of technique and that is that you have a much better chance of the final color matching across projects and from various cameras.... if you do the technical stuff by the numbers.

The final image I looked at was from one of our earlier marketing shoots for the current main stage production; The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Park at Night Time. I made those photographs using dim stage lighting and a couple of battery powered LED panels with the Panasonic GH5 and its friend, the Olympus 12-100mm f4.0 Pro series lens. While it was done in a different overall style from the other two posters, and it was presented as a horizontal (a pick-up from the advertising campaign) it still maintained the same overall look and feel of the other two posters.

Seeing this work, across three formats, presented in the same space and for the same client, was a very interesting experience. If I had seen only the Beauty and the Beast poster alone I would have worried that it might suffer by comparison with posters made with other format size cameras and I would have beaten myself up for allowing my own hubris to move me into selecting what many would characterize as the "wrong camera" for this kind of work. Same with the GH5 generated poster. But seeing them all in the same space and being able to approach each of them at the same viewing distance I was impressed to see just how well the smaller formats actually performed.

The realization that the camera is less important to the overall process than things like good (and ample) lighting, the use of a nice tripod, good technical approaches to white balance and exposure, and a good stage-side manner all seem to me to be much more important than the sensor dimensions of the imaging device.

All of this took the wind out of my sails as far as my imagined appreciation for the vintage Nikon camera went. I decided to continue the walk anyway and trudged on making only five or six unimaginative and boring photographs (which I will not share). That's fine with me. Not every day can be successful for photography. But the walk was much needed. I was looking forward to this morning's swim practice but when we'd gotten about 45 minutes into it we got lots of thunder and meteorological excitement ( one swimmer said, "I didn't see any thunder...") and we had to clear the pool a half an hour early. Nothing worse than a truncated swim practice after a long and emotionally draining week. A couple hours of walking, with or without a camera, is a great way to clear out the cobwebs and get back into a good groove.

Thinking of returning the camera and continuing my concentration on the micro-four-thirds cameras and the marvelous range of lenses available for them. Seems like a more fun way to make photographs.

Trioplan 100mm bokeh

Lens review: Trioplan 100mm f/2.8

My favorite adventure in photography for the past year or so, has been to explore vintage lenses. Many of these lenses render the background in an interesting or unusual way which makes them appealing in helping to create a distinctive look to your photography. A recent purchase was the Trioplan 100mm f/2.8 lens (affiliate) for use with my Sony A7ii camera. The Trioplan 100mm f/2.8 is well known as the ‘soap-bubble bokeh’ lens. Created by the Meyer Optik Görlitz  company, it gives perfectly spherical circles in the background when used in the the right situation. Meyer Optik has seen a resurgence in recent years, releasing various of their classic lenses again, updating them with Schott glass for increased contrast and better color rendition. The Trioplan 100mm f/2.8 is a manual focus lens which has a 15-blade diaphragm which helps in creating that unique bokeh. For this review of the Trioplan 100mm f/2.8 lens, I met up with Anastasiya in Times Square in the early evening.

Most of the examples of photos with this lens that I have seen online, has been of flowers and things in a garden. When the subject is close-up, and the background has pin-points of light, then the high-lights in the background become perfect spheres. This lens really has an unusual bokeh. But since this was winter still, there were no delicious details in the garden to be photographed. Instead, I wanted to see what the lens does when used as a more usual portrait lens.I haven’t seen many portraits online with this lens, which made me curious about it.

Times Square is awash in ever-changing colors with the huge number of billboards constantly changing their displays. Watch what happens to the Times Square night-time background – it becomes a pastel wash of colors. The light on Anastasiya was all available light from the billboards. There weren’t many pinpoints of light, so the background doesn’t show as many perfect circles as this lens is capable of when used with specific intent.

Trioplan 100mm bokeh

Initially I was a little disappointed because I couldn’t get those bubbles of bokeh in the background. You will have to Google ‘ Trioplan 100mm bokeh’ to see these kinds of images. We didn’t quite get them here because of our working distance, and the distance of the background. But just look at the photo here how the highlights, and the car (to the left) and the barrier (also to the left), is rendered. There is a certain painterly quality to this.  Click on this photo (and the photo at the top) to see a larger version of this photo. It really needs the larger photo to see how splendiferous the background looks!

When I stepped a bit further back to get a longer working distance to Anastasiya, the background (as expected) becomes slightly less out of focus.
Look what happens here to the background – slightly more detailed, but still with that impressionistic appearance of the background.

Trioplan 100mm bokeh

Moving away from the center of Times Square to one of the side streets, we looked for possible pin-points of light. We didn’t quite get that, but I still liked the results we got with larger neon light sources in the background.



You can purchase the Meyer Optik Görlitz Trioplan 100mm f/2.8 via these affiliate links:
B&H:   Canon  |  Nikon  |  Sony  |  Fuji


Initial test shots with this lens in the garden and a nearby forest, as the sun was setting through the trees and leaves.

Playing with this lens in Times Square while photographing Anastasiya, I realized why I haven’t seen many good portraits with this lens … which still shows the ‘soap bubble bokeh’. That effect is maximum when the lens is at the closest focusing distance – and then a portrait of someone means their face nearly fills the frame … and you don’t see much of the bubble-background. The further your subject steps away, the smaller the bubbles appear, until at some point, the lens just renders the scene like a more usual 100mm lens.

Here for example are the same neon lights shot from the same distance, but with the camera focused to different distances. In the top image, the camera was at the minimum focusing distance of 1.1 meters. The second shot was with the lens focused to 1.5 meters, and you can see the circles are already smaller. As you focuser further and further away, the bubble highlight start disappearing.



When I first started researching interesting classic optics, I was immediately fascinated by the Trioplan 100mm f/2.8 lens. The bokeh of this lens was eye-catching and unusual. With this initial photo session with Anastasiya, I was at first mildly disappointed that the lens’ bokeh effect was best achieved at specific settings with regard to distance. But then I saw the images we created, and I fell in love with the effect. That painterly quality to the background really creates an unusual look in camera! Without resorting to Photoshop black magic, you can get back to the true spirit of photography – exploring your environment and being surprised. This lens brought that kind of fun back for me.

You can purchase the Meyer Optik Görlitz Trioplan 100mm f/2.8 via these affiliate links:
B&H:   Canon  |  Nikon  |  Sony  |  Fuji


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