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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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Focal length comparison: 645 format vs 35mm format

We all know know that when you use a full-frame lens on a crop-sensor camera, that we can consider there to be a new “effective focal length” of the lens on the crop sensor because the field of view changes. When we now change our composition with the crop-sensor camera to match that of the 35mm camera, we change our own position, we then effectively get thane 1.5x or 1.6x focal length increase. This has been explored in the article:  Full-frame vs Crop-sensor comparison : Depth-of-field & perspective. But now what happens when you put a medium-format lens on a 35mm camera? How does the effective focal length change? Specifically, let’s look at 645 vs 35mm focal length lenses. What happens when we put a lens designed for a 645 format camera, on a 35mm camera body.

Of course, when we use a full-frame lens on a crop sensor camera, the actual focal length doesn’t change. However, in the way we have to change position between the FF and crop camera (with the same lens) to get the same framing of our subject (perhaps a portrait), our focal length effectively changes. It is easier to think about it this way during an actual shoot, since it directly affects our composition.

I was curious what would happen with a 645 format lens on a 35mm camera, or perhaps a 6×7 format lens on a 35mm camera. With how easy it is to use older manual focus lenses (of any lens mount) on a Sony mirrorless camera, I thought I would give it a practical try, and see.

For example, if you use a 200mm lens for a 645 camera, the angle of view is similar to that of a 125mm lens on a 35mm camera. You get the same composition as if you used a 125mm lens. With that, you can see there is a 1.6x factor involved. Or a 0.625 factor, depending on which way you look at it.


You may wonder if a 200mm f/4 lens for a 645 camera would magically turn into a 320mm f/4 lens. (200 x 1.6 = 320mm). Or does the 200mm lens, which is similar to a 125mm lens, magically turn into a 200mm lens? (125 x 1.6 = 200mm.)

Already knowing the logical answer, I wanted to confirm it properly with actual photographs to satisfy my curiosity.

I got hold of an old Pentax 200mm f/4 lens, as well as a Pentax 645 200mm f/4 lens. Each of the with the proper lens mount adapter to use on the Sony. I use my Sony A7 to use vintage lenses. As mentioned, the way that Sony (and Fuji) implement manual focus, makes these bodies ideal for use with the older lenses.

I met up with Anastasiya in New York, and took a sequence of comparative photos to see the actual results.



The first image was shot with the Pentax 200mm f/4, and the second image with the Pentax 645 200mm f/4 lens … and they look virtually identical. The same composition; the same perspective; and from what I can see from other images, the same depth-of-field.

Exactly what should have happened, happened. If you use a medium format lens on a 35mm camera – it remains the same, actual focal length. The only difference is that the image shot with the 645 lens was sharper – it is a more modern lens, and we only take the central, sharper portion of the image circle. (You won’t be able to notice the difference on these web-sized images.)



This is anti-climactic, if not slightly disappointing though – wouldn’t it have been great to effectively get a superb 300mm f/4 lens buy delving through the medium format lenses on ebay? Unfortunately, we can’t side-step the science here.

The 200mm focal length of the 645 lens is effectively the same as a 125mm lens on a 35mm camera, and when we crop the image by using the 200mm 645 lens on a 35mm camera, it effectively becomes exactly that – a 200mm lens.

BTW, the image at the very top was processed with Aurora software for a mild HDR effect. This is why it looks different in tone than the other two images shown here.


Related articles


645 format focal length vs 35mm lenses

When we calculate the comparative focal lengths between medium format lenses and that for 35mm, the diagonal of the frame / negative is measured. This will give us a sense of the angle of view that the lens covers. However, since the aspect ratio is different between all the formats – 2×3 (for 35mm); 6×4.5; 6×6; 6×7 – there is an approximate focal equivalence when we compare it to a full-frame (35mm) camera.

645  format = 0.625 factor
6 x 6  format = 0.55 factor
6 x 7 format = 0.5 factor,
when converting for an equivalent 35mm focal length.




The lenses

And for comparison, here are the two Pentax lenses to show their relative size. The optic on the right-hand side is quite petite.

The beauty of the Sony E-mount mirrorless cameras is that with the DSLR mirror box gone, there is the space to adapt any legacy lens to the Sony E-mount. The adapters are usually fairly inexpensive as photography gear goes.

The adapter on the left is the Fotodiox lens adapter for Pentax 645 to Sony E-mount (B&H / Amazon), and has the larger throat for the larger 645 lens. The adapter on the right is the Fotodiox adapter for Pentax K to Sony E-mount (affiliate). It is as simple as that to use pretty much any legacy or vintage lens with the Sony mirrorless cameras.


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Time-Lapse Photography project in New York: Cipriani

The beauty of time-lapse photography is that you are able compress a much longer event, into a shorter video which can be visually grasped. One of the biggest time-lapse projects I have been involved in, is for a New York event planner, Norma Cohen Productions, who needed a time-lapse video to show the epic scale of a wedding reception that she was tasked with. It took 3 days to set up this entire event! I shot 32,500 RAW frames with 4 cameras over the course of those 3 days. And yes, it took my computer several days to grind through those!

In working out the logistics for this photo shoot, I figured that I needed a minimum of 4 cameras. The one camera was mounted permanently to a vantage point two floors up, and would shoot continuously and provide a framework for me to add the other clips to. The other 3 cameras were “roaming” cameras to get different perspectives, and capture the different parts of what was going on. All of this would then give me the footage needed for a dynamic video.

In the end, the main camera gave me the framework for the complete 4’45” video (shown later on in this article.) I rendered the video (from the individual JPGs) via Final Cut Pro X (FCPX). From this main video, I created another 3 shorter versions for my client. The video shown at the top is the shortest version at 1’50” and it probably gives the best impression of the activity – short enough to retain your interest, but with enough detail to retain the story-telling element of what happened.

With this, I want to show some of the behind-the-scenes work that went into photographing the construction of the decor at this event, and creating various time-lapse videos from this.



This is where the main, static camera was clamped into position. The camera was also connected to AC power which allowed the camera run indefinitely. Similarly, the timer that you can see there, would also fire the camera until the end of the project, 3.5 days later. Since the camera’s intervalometer maxed out at 9,999 frames, I needed the intervalometer to just keep shooting until we were done. There were two long breaks (of 6-7 hours) during all this, which allowed me to download this camera’s memory cards. Other than that, this camera was just left alone, with me checking up on it every few hours.


Decisions and problem-solving

Much of photography work is problem-solving. You could even validly argue that there is more of that than the actual creative process. We might have a specific thought-process or set of ideal practices to follow, but there is also a need for flexibility. You know, just what we do in photography.

With this photo shoot I didn’t have much of a brief. I find that often clients don’t know what to ask for with time-lapse, since they don’t have the technical knowledge to know what they want – they just want time-lapse. And that is where we come in as photographers and problem-solvers. So I had to made decisions based on past experience, and what I think would work best.

My main consideration was what intervals should I use to shoot the sequences. This would determine how much the action flowed. How smooth it seemed. And this would in turn give us a range for our ideal shutter speed. I needed to have this down right from the start. It isn’t something I would want to adjust on the fly because I wanted consistency.

The thought-process about camera settings and interval choice was explained in this article:  Camera settings for Time-lapse photography. Also check out the n E-book by Ryan Chilinski: Everything you want to know about Time-Lapse Photography. It really has everything you want to know about Time-Lapse Photography.

Along those lines, I decided on:
20 second intervals with 15 second shutter speed.
This would mean my ISO would vary between 64 – 100 ISO,
and the aperture would vary between f/11 and f/16

Now we come to another crucial part – with an interval of 20 seconds between each photo, a camera would take 3 photos per minute. At a frame-rate of 30fps for the final videos, a camera would need to run for 10 minutes to give 1 seconds of final video.

Therefore any of the roaming cameras had to be in a position for an hour to give 6 seconds of time-lapse video. Any video segment shorter than 6 seconds would most likely not be useful. This meant that anywhere I positioned the camera, needed to be out of the way of workers, and also needed to have something useful in the frame to give a video clip with actual usable content. I couldn’t keep chasing the action. I had to figure out a good angle where they would be busy, and hope that any workers would be consistently busy in that area for the next hour at least.

Even though it wasn’t very bright inside this venue, the slow shutter speed forced a small aperture. I didn’t want to go all the way and use ND filters. When the light levels went really low towards the end as they set up the mood lighting around the tables. the images were under-exposed by up to 3 stops. But since this is the Nikon D810, and I am shooting at the lowest ISO with a high-resolution camera … and only going to 1080p, noise would not be a problem at all. I adjusted these files by hand, using ACR / Bridge. From these I created JPGs, and then rendered the separate video clips with FCPX, and then compiled the completed videos again with FCPX.



Cameras, lenses & time-lapse gear

I took this photo the day before as I was preparing my gear. These were the cameras I took with me:

The one camera could have a grip on it. During the shoot, I found that the D810 batteries lasted about 4 hrs each, shooting at the determined rate.

With the grip, I  was able to change the grip’s battery every 4 hours without interrupting the camera … ie, this gave me indefinite battery life as it switched to the camera for a minute before reverting back to the fresh battery in the grip. This is where the Nikon bodies with a grip gives me an advantage over a Canon body. I could hot-swap a battery and the camera would continue. I just had to be super-careful not to nudge the camera. Another note – with Canon, the moment you open the CF card door, the camera stops. With Nikon I can open the CF card too, and hot-swap a card without affecting the camera’s operation … except perhaps lose one frame.

The one camera that would get the aerial view, would be on AC power.


This is the camera and lens combination that I mostly keep for work on a dolly for when I need cinematic movement to my camera. Here is an example of a time-lapse video shot on a dolly that gives that kind of camera movement: Brooklyn waterfront.

Even though 1080p is around 2 megapixels, and even 4K is only around 6 megapixels, I shoot with the high-resolution Nikon D810, since it allows me a lot of room for creative cropping afterwards. This previously mentioned article – Camera settings for Time-lapse photography – explains that too.


The Nikon D5 and the 24-70mm lens is one of those combinations that are married – the lens just never comes off, in an attempt to minimize dust on the sensor. But during the shoot I realized I needed a wider lens at some point, and I grudgingly swapped the 24-70mm out for that wider zoom.



Here is all the gear before I strapped the bags down on the cart. The big bag on top has all the time-lapse gear, including the dollies and other paraphernalia of time-lapse photography. I ended up not using any of the gear that gives camera movement, except one sequence that I shot with the  Dynamic Perception Rotational Controller (affiliate). I found that the workers were too unpredictable in where they would work on the floor, for me to set up motion. So aside from the one sequence, the rest of the 40+ sequences I captured, where static. You can see part of that rotational sequence in the longer time-lapse video shown at the bottom of this article.

The bag to the right on the bottom, only contains tripods …. three of these bad boys:
Manfrotto 057 Carbon Fiber Tripod  (B&H / Amazon),  with the Manfrotto 057 Magnesium Ball Head (Amazon)
The tripods need to be sturdy. You absolutely need to keep camera vibration to a minimum.

The bottom bag to the left has all the cameras and lenses and batteries for the cameras.

Here is a video interview with PDN magazine, where I describe the equipment that I use for time-lapse photography:  Featured on PDN: How to shoot cinematic time-lapses.

A few notes: 
– Vibration Reduction / Image Stabilization needs to be OFF on all lenses. You can’t risk the VR / IS causing even the slightest amount of subject movement in the captured frame.
– Similarly, the lenses are set to manual focus.
– All camera settings are matched, including the date & time settings.


Sensor dust and cleaning your sensor

With time-lapse photography you will immediately realize that your sensor needs to be meticulously clean. This is why I have two D810 bodies with lenses that just never come off. It is soul-sucking nightmare to clone out dust spots over hundreds or thousands of frames … and most often you won’t be able to convincingly do it since you will see some kind of video artifacting taking place where you clone out spots.

I describe what I use for Camera sensor cleaning. The best device that I found for lifting spots that won’t budge, is the Eyelead SCK-1 sensor gel stick (Amazon).

Ultimately, marrying lenses to specific bodies helps minimize the risk of sensor dust.



A few behind-the-scenes photos showing the cameras as they were set up to capture specific sequences of events happening.

Two of the cameras on the floor, capturing the two flower walls being completed on either side of the dance floor.


Because it was such a long project, I had to periodically back up the images to two hard drives so that there was no risk of data loss. That is something I am paranoid about. Data loss would be a professional calamity.

Here is the one camera as it was set up with the rotational motion controller. As mentioned earlier, I only shot one sequence this way.



And here is the full, 4’45” video showing the events in a proper time scale. With that, I do think the shorter version is the more dynamic one to watch, and still get a real impression of what went on.


Related articles


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I’m cool and hip with this Instagram thing. So much, that I had two accounts – my main account (@neilvn), and one for the Tangents blog. But you know what – it is time to embrace just the one IG account.

So to all you groovy, groovy people – please follow me @neilvn  which will be the Instagram account is where I’ll be posting images that appear on the Tangents blog, as well as anything else that is eye-catching.  Until now, I’ve used the neilvn Instagram account purely just for photos shot with my iPhone and Instagram itself. However, I think it is long overdue that I also share everything that I do that is of interest, via one Instagram account.

So please follow me there. Or don’t. I’m cool enough to act like I don’t care. But really, I do care! A lot.

If you are curious about the photograph, (without all the text over it), you can check it out here:  Personal photos from the archives – South Africa

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What’s in my bag – lighting gear for headshots on location

In one of the previous articles dealing with lighting gear for headshots on location – headshot photography lighting on location – I showed the need to be flexible. There I showed a number of the setups I have used, depending on the client’s needs, and also dependent on where we are shooting. With this article now, I want to more specifically show the lighting gear I have in my lighting roller case – my usual minimum setup. As you might expect by now, my lighting choice is based on the Profoto B1 and A1 flashes. It is a reliable, and easy to use ecosystem of lights.

Most often I don’t have the luxury of a lot of time to set up – so the gear should not be fussy to use. Even then, it should be flexible enough for me to change things up a little bit.

Oh, this isn’t just my setup for headshots – this is my general setup for any kind of shoot where I need my lighting gear. For example: Fitness photography – photo session in the gym.



Here’s what I roll in with when I do headshots or similar type of studio-on-location shoot. Two large roller cases (and a shoulder bag) that contain everything I need. It looks neat and uncluttered. I need to look slick and efficient in front of a client.

The taller bag is the Photoflex Transpac roller case (B&H) / Amazon) from which I stripped out all the dividers so I can more easily fill it up with light-stands and umbrellas. The interior of this roller case is 46″ / 116 cm tall, so anything that is tall goes in this bag.

The shorter bag there is the Think Tank Production Manager 40 (affiliate), which is a high-capacity rolling gear case specifically designed for lighting gear … and the contents of this bag is what I want to show here since it contains the flashes and other accessories that I would use.



In the first two compartments you can see two Profoto B1 flashes (B&H / Amazon) – they are the two main units I use during most shoots on location. On top of them, you can see the pouches with the OCF grids and gels for the B1 flashes, in case I need those.

The third compartment has two Profoto A1 flashes for Nikon (B&H / Amazon). (They are also available for Canon). I use the A1 flashes for rim lighting, or to light up the backgrounds, or I use them as fill-flash. They are also super-handy should I ever need backup flashes to the B1 units.

That red & black zip pouch has the Profoto A1 gels, as well as spare A1 batteries. I also keep two Manfrotto Snap Tiltheads (B&H / Amazon), in that pouch. They are needed to mount the A1 flash to a light-stand and to attach an umbrella. So everything in that compartment has to do with the A1 flashes.

The 4th compartment has 4 spare B1 batteries, and the Profoto Air controllers for Nikon, Canon and Sony. I primarily shoot with Nikon, but keep all the controllers together. I have the variety because I use the Profoto B1 flashes for some of my photography workshops, and need to be able to use the flashes across platforms.

Then there is the D810 with the 70-200mm f/2.8 VR II which is my main camera & lens for headshots. Of course, I bring backup in a shoulder bag – in which I carry my laptop as well.

The two blue zip-up bags in that one compartment – the one contains the tethering cables and connectors. The other bag has hair spray and cheap $1 combs.  There is a handheld mirror that I keep in the outermost pocket of this roller case.

Then you can see the corner of a white box peek out in the smaller compartment – in there I keep a spare bulb for the B1 flashes. I’ve had one flash die on me when it took a knock and the flash tube cracked. So now I keep a spare. With the two Profoto A1 flashes, and a spare bulb for the B1 units, I should we well covered for an emergency. The small blue bag with the white box is the rain cover that comes with this Think Tank roller case.

Oh, that black thing on top of that white box is …. you guessed it, the Black Foamie Thing. Have BFT, will travel.



The Manfrotto Snap Tiltheads (B&H / Amazon), are some of the handiest lighting accessories that I have ever bought. They are compact – unlike the cheaper units with the lock handle. Then they also have some kind of spring-loaded mechanism inside, which keeps the top-heavy flash from just toppling over. Brilliant!

What also needs to be mentioned – the way the tilt-head locks the flash into position, is really good. That black textured knob right below the flash, screws up, and locks the flash into position. The flash can not fall off, even if you don’t use the flash’s locking mechanism itself.

They are well thought out to ensure your flash doesn’t get damaged.

There is the slot then for you to slip an umbrella shaft through.

As I mentioned, I keep two of these in a small zip-up bag in the camera case. They are compact enough for that.



In the aforementioned article on headshot photography lighting on location, I showed several setups. Here again I want to show three recent setups I had for headshots. Of course, it is imperative that I shoot tethered – the client wants to, and needs to see the images right then. Shooting tethered helps involving your subject in the process, and allows them to adjust clothing or hair, and suggest a few changes perhaps.

Here I used a Profoto B1 and a large reflecting umbrella as the main light. I didn’t want to bounce my flash into the area behind me, because there were other vendors right behind me. So I wanted to contain the light. But it turned out that this was just a touch too contrasty as the single light source – therefore I added fill-flash – a Profoto A1 with a handy black foamie thing to flag my flash. This extra light was just enough to give a nice lighting ratio, and lifted the shadows a bit.

For the background, I had a gridded Profoto B1 with a gel to give a warmer glow to the background. The background here is a roll of Fashion Grey made by Savage backdrops (Amazon). I am now using a Lastolite collapsible White / Grey (6×7) background (B&H) which is easier to set up.



Here I had the ceiling height to use the massive he Westcott 7′ Parabolic Umbrella  (B&H / Amazon). This is my favorite large light modifier – it is light and it isn’t expensive.

Here you can see the Lastolite collapsible White / Grey (6×7) background  (B&H) which I like for the ease with which it sets up. You can see the two Profoto A1 flashes there – one to light the background, and one as a hair / rim light.



Again, a very similar setup. but to avoid the umbrella reflecting in my eye-glasses, I chose to bounce the main light into the ceiling. This gives a nice soft light that I can still make directional by bouncing it slightly to the side. There is so much spill light, that you don’t really need a fill light to the one side – you just rotate the main light slightly.

With these pull-back shots there is flare because I had my assistant step further back for these photos. For the actual head-shots, I am next to the light, and there is no risk of flare from the main flash.

In the second photo, I stood a little to the side to show the flash lighting up the background. Of course, you can dial the power up to give a brighter background.

The rim-light here is lower than I would usually set it up, but I had to reverse-engineer a previous headshot for the client.

And here is the result – a test shot of me that my assistant took. It is also imperative that you don’t keep your clients waiting – you have to be completely ready when they arrive.



Related articles


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Fitness photography – photo session in the gym

Collaborating with other photographers, I am often involved as a kind of lighting tech, bringing along the necessary lighting gear, and setting it up as needed. With this Fitness photography photo session in the gym, I helped my friend Yasmeen who specializes in fitness photography here in NJ and New York. On this occasion, I arrange the lighting as needed for various setups she decided on. This is a large part of what I like about being involved on this end of a photo shoot – not just collaborating, but being problem-solving, concentrating on the lighting. I have described similar occasion before – Lighting an on-location Fashion shoot. Working as a duo like this, takes a lot of stress off the principal photographer – and I am busy with an aspect of photography that I really like – the lighting.  While the lighting setups shown here aren’t crazy complex, we did have to change it up ever so slightly, depending on where we were in the gym.

With that in mind, I want to show some of the setups here, and the fluid way in which we adapted the lights to get the results that Yasmeen’s client would like. The client here is a fitness instructor, Janine Delaney, who has a huge Instagram following. The photographs we took here would then add to Janine’s portfolio and help promote her online presence.



Yasmeen and Janine discussing the images they have shot so far. I have found that it is essential with this kind of photo session to shoot tethered to a computer – it allows the client an easy to way to see the progress, and to give input about what might need to be changed or added.

I asked Yasmeen about her approach to Fitness Photography:

Fitness photography as I approach it can be aggressive, intense, celebratory and/or fun. The approach I take for each shoot has to match the personality and goals of the subject. I’ll shoot one person light and airy and the next one dark and contrasty- but all have a level of edge  to them that reflect they were shot by me. Having a marketing background I always think about where the photos are going to live, who the audience is and what is the purpose of the imagery.  I inject a level of my personal style to the imagery while still staying focused on the strategy and goals of the work. We have a lot of fun on set in a casual atmosphere so we can get images where the subject is relaxed and can be their best.



A little but more about Janine.  I asked her to introduce herself to readers of the Tangents blog, and tell us more about what she aims to achieve with her endeavors:

Hi everyone it’s me Janine!  Many of you may know me already from my crazy workouts like one handed pull ups or double unders in the ocean.  All done with a smile on my face.  For those of you tuning in for the first time, let me introduce myself. 

My goal is to help others realize that being fit is not just about the way you look. It’s about being healthy in mind, body and soul.  All of these components have to work together before we can be the best possible version of ourselves. At the age of 48, I feel better physically and mentally than ever before

Fitness has always been a big part of my life, from dancing professional ballet, to teaching exercise and nutrition classes, to competing and placing in figure competitions.  Whether you are in your 20’s looking to put on some muscle, your 30’s looking to get your figure back after having kids, or even looking to shed those past few pounds as you enter your 40’s, I’ve been there and know what it takes to make those changes in your life.

Between my career as a Psychologist and raising teenagers, I also understand that it’s not easy to find time to exercise and eat healthy.  That’s why I have started my social media fitness brand, to give you workouts, nutrition tips and other motivational tools to make juggling more manageable. 

Janine Delaney, Ph.D.  Instagram  |  Facebook  |  YouTube



Lighting gear used during this part of the photo shoot

The lighting kit I brought along, consisted of two Profoto B1 TTL flashes  (B&H / Amazon), and two Profoto A1 flashes for Nikon  (B&H / Amazon). The Profoto A1 is also available for Canon  (B&H / Amazon). Then of course, there was the usual assortment of light-stands and light modifiers. For light modifiers, I brought along a gridded 1×3 strip box, and some umbrellas, and grids and gels.

I rolled in with the gear in two roller cases, as shown in this article:  What’s in my bag – lighting gear for headshots on location.

Then it was a matter of using what was needed.



Main light was a Profoto B1 flash (affiliate) with an umbrella, and a Profoto A1 flash (affiliate) as a rim-light from behind. Both are marked with red circles in this pull-back shot.

To brighten up the background and the ceiling, there was a third light – a Profoto B1 – bounced straight up into the ceiling.  The position is marked with a red circle as well.  The 2nd pull-back shot showed where the flash was positioned – on the mat in the boxing ring.




The main light here was a Profoto B1 flash (affiliate) in a  gridded 1’×3’ softbox (affiliate).  The intent was to have more directional light on Janine for a contrasty look, but we ended up using the light in a more straight-on way. The background was lit again by another Profoto B1, aimed straight up into the ceiling. This flash, along with the flood of daylight through the windows, gave a high-key look to the final image.



Again the Profoto B1 flash (affiliate) and the  gridded 1’×3’ softbox (affiliate) as the main light, and a Profoto B1 bounced into the ceiling in the background.



We wanted a flood of light here instead of the controlled (contrasty) light from the stripbox. I used a Profoto A1 (affiliate) as a bounce flash, with the flash turned slightly backwards. In the background, there is still the Profoto B1 flash (affiliate) bounced into the ceiling.



For a sequence of photos at the lockers and then at the scale, I used the most simple of lighting setups again – a single Profoto A1 (affiliate) bounced into the wall behind us.



Again a very simple lighting setup – the main light is a Profoto B1 flash (affiliate) bounced into the area behind us, and a  Profoto A1 flash (affiliate) as a rim-light from above and behind.



Here I used three lights again – the main light is a Profoto B1 flash (affiliate) bounced into the area behind us, and a  Profoto A1 flash (affiliate) as a rim-light on camera left. The third light (not visible, but positioned behind the gym equipment circled in red), was the sameProfoto B1 flash (affiliate) bounced into the ceiling, but with the power reduced.




I wanted to show here how we kept the lighting setups straight-forward, yet flexible, depending on where we shot in the gym. We had to shoot fast, since there was a 3pm deadline for when kids would come into the gym for classes – so the setups could not be cumbersome. Also, as I mentioned in my review of the Profoto A1 flash, I love how this smaller flash integrates into the Profoto ecosystem, whether as a flash or as a controller.


Related articles


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behind the scenes: Fashion catalog photo shoot in the studio

From a recent photoshoot in the studio for a fashion designer, Isle By Melis Kozan, I want to give a bit of a glimpse behind the scenes. Further below there is a short video clip that shows what went down in the studio. Nothing frenetic – the pace is calm and steady. As it should be when you need to get through a large number of items. Fashion catalog photo shoots are fairly straight-forward – the key is consistency is lighting and positioning. You also need consistency in the camera’s viewpoint.

There is no Art Direction per se, other than me following the instructions from the husband & wife fashion designing team, and making sure that what we capture on this day, is consistent with what they show on their website, and consistent with what they need. There’s that word again – consistency.

I shoot tethered – this way the team can see the images immediately as I shoot them, and then change things on the go, if needed. It also gives them the confidence that everything is running smoothly. With that, shooting tethered in the studio is essential. I used the Nikon D5 for this session, and I use Nikon Camera Control as the tethering software.

I shoot from a fixed position, seated on a step-ladder – this gives a consistent perspective and a lower angle than standing would have. More flattering, and less chance of perspective distortion – you know, the big head / little feet syndrome. This article will illustrate that kind of perspective distortion: Composition for full-length portraits – step back! We want to avoid that!



BTS video clip: Photo shoot in the studio

One thing that will hopefully stand out in this view clip – the timing of the photos. I was working with two experienced models, so they needed very little directing. But I have to wait for them to get into the next position / pose before I fire the shutter. As a photographer you have to wait for the model to give you the cue that she’s ready for the next shot. If you shoot wildly, you will end up with very little useful photos. You absolutely need to time your shots.

And of course, here are the pull-back photos, and the techie details with the listing of photo gear used. I marked them with a red semi-circle so that the lighting that were actually used, stand out from the rest of the lighting gear that clutters the studio.

All the lights in the studio are the Profoto D1 Air 500Ws studio lights (affiliate). I used 4 of them for this set up.

I had two lights pointed to the white paper backdrop to blow it out to pure white. (More about that further down.) These two lights were each diffused by a Profoto 2×3 RFi softbox  (affiliate).

The main light on our models was the monster Profoto 5-ft RFi Octa Softbox  (B&H / Amazon) overhead of me. The pull-back shot was done at 16mm, so you just see the bottom edge of the octabox. That’s what this black shape is at the top of the frame – the bottom edge of the octabox. To see it in proper perspective, watch the BTS video clip. This oct-box is kept in place by the huge studio boom arm by Redwing (affiliate).

Then in the photo below, you can see the 4th light that I used to clean up the white paper in front of our models. I just used a Profoto beauty dish  (affiliate) for this, for no other reason than the light was already on a boom.

Photo gear and lighting used during this photo session

  • 1/200  @  f/8  @  100 ISO



Exposure metering for the white background

I want as pure a white as possible so that it would need no work in post-production. What did help here is that this client wanted only half-length shots. That’s easy enough.

I use the histogram of my camera to determine that the white background is blowing out ever so little, and this is confirmed by the blinking high-lights display. I don’t want the background to be too bright, because then it gives a halo around the subjects, which isn’t easy to fix. Therefore we want that optimal point where everything is just right. We’ve discussed this way of metering before in a previous article: Lighting a white seamless studio backdrop. And for those who have smaller spaces to work in and use speedlights, it is the exact same thought-process: A home-studio setup with speedlites

Here are the RGB values as shown in Photoshop – it’s about there for a wide area all around our models.


And to confirm that those two lights only light up the background, and not our subjects, here is the photo with the main light switched off. Now I know there is no nasty bleeding of light from the very bright background.

The white here is a touch under what is ideal, because we don’t have that extra little bit of light from the main flash (in the 5′ octabox), to push it to the values we see above.



The lighting is simplicity itself. The key here is consistency. Everything has to be very consistent in terms of lighting and positioning.


Related articles


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BTS video clip: Studio photo shoot with a model

I’ve mentioned before how much I like to shoot with and observe other photographers at work. I recently got to hang out with my friend, Andy Foord in the studio while he photographed a model, Olga. The inspiration was a Vanity Fair style portrait – soft, yet with a hint of the dramatic. I watched Andy set up the lights and photograph Olga – during this I shot a behind-the-scenes video which I’ve posted below. It is short, and meant as a glimpse into the process, and as a way of seeing the lighting setup and see the studio.

Instead of a longer video that takes much more time to edit and deliver, I wanted to test a new direction here – to see how feasible it is to shoot some behind-the-scenes footage to add to new articles here. The video is meant to be quick and easy to shoot and edit … yet hopefully will add something. Maybe it is fun to watch, and perhaps reveals more than the typical pull-back I usually show. If there’s interest in more, this is something I could add more regularly – let me know.

Also, keep in mind that if you need a rental photo studio in New Jersey, my studio is available.

Before we get to the BTS video clip, some of the photos I shot of Olga using Andy’s setups:



BTS video clip: studio photo shoot with Olga

And of course, here is the pull-back shot, and the techie details with the listing of photo gear used:

Camera settings & Photo gear used in this photo session

This pull-back shot will show the lights in position – the main light is the 5′ octabox to our right here, and the fill light is via the Softlighter 46″ (affiliate), and the white V-flat opposite that light. All this added to a fairly even light, but with slightly more shadow on Olga’s left side (camera right).



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Wedding photography – Style & Serendipity

There’s this balance I feel I need to maintain in my professional photography, and especially with weddings. The photos I take, need to solidly be within the style that I show on my website – this is what my clients hired me for. On top of that though, there is the urge within as an artist, and as an obligation to my clients, to produce more. To deliver photos with a little extra. Something slightly different. I want to expand what I do, and expand on my style and ‘look’. So with every shoot and every wedding, I’m always looking for anything out of the ordinary. Get the solid photos in my pocket, like the example shown above … it works. The bride looks beautiful. The lighting is good. The pose isn’t rigidly controlled – it is natural and complements her personality. Typical of my the kind of romantic portraits I do during a wedding. But I also want to get something unusual and artistic, yet is still within my style. I want to surprise myself, my client, and anyone who sees the photos.

Serendipity plays a role. Louis Pasteur had this beautiful saying: “Chance favors the prepared mind.” It is up to us as the photographers to recognize these opportunities and run with them.

I want to show two examples at this wedding when we photographed the bride, Tonya, and we chanced upon something a little out of the ordinary by playing with the light.

For example, this image came about when we saw how the light and shadow played across Tonya when my assistant was holding up the light, and it swung, and we saw the pattern of light move across her dress. We instantly knew we had to use it. Then it was just a matter of guiding Tonya’s gaze and the light falling through a curve in the railing, to accentuate her eyes. The pull-back shot will show this better – the light is the bare modeling light of the Profoto B1 flash (affiliate).

Camera settings & Photo gear used during this photo session

  • 1/60  @  f/4  @  1600 ISO



Direction & Quality Of Light

Direction & Quality of Light

I wanted to distill the essence of what we, as photographers, work with – light! Before we can truly grasp on-camera flash and off-camera flash, and really, any kind of photography, we have to be aware of the direction and quality of light. We need to observe the light that we have, and then decide how best to use it, or enhance it.

With this book, I try my best to share those “aha!” moments with you, and I do believe this book can make a difference to your photography.

The book is available on 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.



The initial effect here was fairly subtle – the bevelled edge of the mirror refracting into strips of light. For this, I asked Tonya, the bride, to move very slightly to her right until the beams of light were over her eyes. The pattern is irregular, and the effect might not be to everyone’s taste, however, this is another sequence that added variety to the final selection I offered to the bride and groom. It all adds up to more variety.

Here is the pull-back shot to show the position of the light – the bare modeling light of the Profoto B1 flash (affiliate).

The reason for the images shown here – from the initial photo at the top, and the subsequent two variations, is that the modeling light has a White Balance that matches the warm tones of the Incandescent and warm fluorescent lights in the venue. I don’t need a powerful flash  – I just need a subtle light that can enhance the existing light. And for that, the modeling light of the Profoto B1 was good enough. The image at the very top was with the modeling light bounced into an umbrella. The other main images were all with the bare modeling light directly on Tonya.

Camera settings & Photo gear used during this photo session

  • 1/60  @  f/3.2  @  2000 ISO




The key here is not to get locked into just the usual way of working, but to always be aware of possibilities – to recognize opportunity when it comes your way. Make serendipity part of your style.


Related links


Video tutorials – wedding photography

If you like learning by seeing best, then these video tutorials will help you with understanding 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.

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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.



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Tips on photographing dancers and ballerinas

Photographing a talented dancer / model, Anna L Russel (Instagram ), in the studio, I wanted to think further than just sequences. Recently I have moved more to thinking in terms of larger projects or longer-term projects, even if just over a single photo session. I liked the results from the first few jumps Anna did – explosive movements within which she’s momentally hold a pose before landing again.  I don’t know much about dance movements or what would be the perfect execution of a dance move … which would then affect my timing of the shot. During the shoot, looking at the photos on the back of my camera, she explained to me things to look out for in the dancer’s movements. She gave me tips on photographing dancers and ballerinas – what I, as the photographer, should be looking at in terms of the best positioning of her hands and feet. For example, at the peak of the movement, the knee should be extended and locked.

It was a 2 hour photo session, we did several outfits, including the nude one when this jump looked weird with the body suit. I deleted a few of the total .. maybe 20-30 shots including the test shots were deleted. I kept 105 shots total. She nailed the various jumps. Most of the shots we lost were due to her hair. It turned out to be a true collaboration between myself and Anna.

Her insights were valuable to me in being able to capture the peak movement, so I asked her to contribute to this article, and give us photographers some tips on photographing dancers and ballerinas:



Here, in Anna’s words: 


It is so important to publish images that capture ballet technique at it’s finest. This will flatter the dancer and most of all, it will demonstrate your skills as a photographer – on more than one level.

So, let’s take a moment to pay homage to the life-time of rigorous training that dancers embrace and their bodies endure.

*Keep in mind that every dancer is gifted with unique talents and physical traits.


Here are a few “rules of thumb” to practice when photographing ballet and selecting images:

1) Ballet Technique – we need to see straight legs and pointed feet.

When legs are fully extended and feet pointed, they should be defined with an “M” like bend in the joints, starting from the hip –> to the upper thigh –> back of the knee –> calf –> instep (top of the ankle) –> to the bottom of the big toe.

When legs are fully straight, you will see tension in the muscle. For more hyper-extended dancers, the “M” like bend will be more distinct.


2 – Timing

Let’s focus on jumps. This is a great moment to highlight dancer’s athleticism.

Rather than using multiple shutters, it’s good practice to sync yourself with the movement. For jumps that are in-place – going up and down- imagine an arrow shooting into the air, stopping, then falling down. It’s that moment at the peak when the arrow stops, that we must capture.

Jumps that go across the floor are harder to capture and take more practice, as they are constantly in movement and do not stop.

When a jump is on time, if one or both legs are extended, you will see the “M” bend at the joints and a fully pointed toe.

Hint: When the hair is going up, it means the dancer is likely already coming down. When the hair is pressed against the head, is means he/she is still going up. You’ve got to find the sweet spot where the hair is usually relaxed.


3) – Overall Effect

Ballet is meant to look effortless. After all, pointe shoes were first used to make a female dancer look floating above the stage. The poses should “breathe” and the emotion should leave a lasting-impression on the viewer.




About the image at the top:

Drifting – that’s the title that immediately came to mind while I was editing this photo. The original is vertical, and is Anna jumping, and caught on the downward movement. Turning the photo on its side, makes it a touch more surreal.

Here is the correct orientation, and a few more photos from this photo session.

With this photo above, Anna mentioned that her left leg is bent, and not ideally portrayed. However, for me, it works in terms of the composition in how the two legs are held in that shape. So I decided to override Anna’s decision – I like this photo. We did several shots of the same pose, so we did get images that satisfied Anna’s demands too.


And finally, one of my favorite photos from the session. It took a few tries to have an image that was “safe” for Instagram and Facebook, without the need to blur anything out … but still have her arms and hands in a graceful pose.

This uncropped photo below, will show the setup with the backdrops in position.



Camera settings & Photo gear used in this photo session

This pull-back shot will show the lights in position – the gridded octabox as the main light, and the two gelled flashes to the side as accent lights. That glow you see at the top left, was just for this photo – it was another flash I added so you could actually see the main octabox. In a true pull-back shot, it would have faded into black along with the rest of the studio.



About the backdrops – with space ever at a premium as I get more and more lighting gear, I have had to improvise something to keep two of my favorite backdrops handy. Yet, I can still easily roll them out of the way. I can also rotate them around as I did with this photo session, and still keep the lighting the same.

I need to mention that my studio is available as a Rental Studio in NJ.
I also present Studio Photography Workshops where we explore studio lighting.
Or, if you just want to learn more about studio photography, here is a good introductory article: Studio photography lighting tips – your first time in the studio



Related articles




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.

The post Tips on photographing dancers and ballerinas appeared first on Tangents.

Saluti da New York!

Today is not only Mid-Winter Solstice, it is also exactly 5 months since I had the acute myocardial infarction while on a trip to Italy. Against all odds, I made it to the hospital in time, and received wonderfully attentive care from the staff at the hospital in Como, Italy.

This week I finally got it together to send the doctors and nurses a ‘Thank You’ postcard … this one. Me in New York. Alive and well. It is quite apt since their nickname for me was “New York”.

This is me then, 5 months on, and 30 lbs lighter, and still working on my fitness every day. Last night I put in a solid 40 minutes on my bicycle on the rollers. I worked up a sweat, but didn’t feel winded.

I feel good, and I think I look good. I definitely look better than I did 6 months ago.

Not only is this a shoutout to the staff at the hospital, but also to my wife, Sara, and my daughter, Janine –  and the many friends who helped me and who offered to help me, and who called me and checked up on me, and who came over to hang out with me. Also a big thank you for the followers of this blog and your well wishes. Thank you for reaching out to me. It is always hugely appreciated.

So yeah, this is all pretty good news.

Speaking of good news … we got the final bill from the Italian hospital last week, and wow. Yeah. What a nice surprise. From my experience, the Italian medical system is awesome on every level.

I’ve had a few people ask how I lost the weight – mostly because I stopped drinking sodas immediately. No Cokes. Nothing. Just water and seltzer, and one decaf coffee a day. No chocolates. Very little sweets – mainly peppermints when I have the urge for candy. Then most importantly, I cut out a LOT of saturated fat from my diet. That’s about it. (And no, I am not asking for advice on diet … I am doing fine.)

Again, thank you to everyone for the support and friendship. It meant the world to me the past few months.

My original invitation still stands … if you’re in the area, come hang out with me; let’s create; let’s do stuff.

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Best photography purchases of 2017

It’s that time of the year again – the list of Best & Worst Photography purchases of 2017. Same as with previous years’ lists of best photography purchases – 2016 |  2015 | 2014 – I would love to hear what camera gear you bought that you loved … or didn’t love. As before, there are two book prizes to be had, chosen by random number generator. Here then is my list of my best photography purchases of 2017, along with the reasons why I think they were good decisions. I also add a few items that I was less excited about. Same as last year, I was a little wiser with my money and tried to limit the more frivolous expenditure … but who can resist a good deal on a Manfrotto Snake Arm (affiliate)?

About the photo above – the New York skyline after a rain storm – it was taken with the Fuji X-T20 and 18-55mm lens (B&H / Amazon) that I bought this year as my take-everywhere and travel camera … except I don’t travel enough. Sadly it sees too much time in a drawer in my office. Still, it’s a nifty little camera. And this is illustrative perhaps of how our original ideas and intent changes. Sometimes its not that something is a bad product that we bought – oftentimes our plans, ideas and circumstance change. Still, I am mostly happy with the photo gear I bought this year. In addition there were a number of very tempting items that I got to play with … but couldn’t pull the trigger on.

Add yours to the list of Best / Worst Photo related purchases, by posting in the comments section. What photo gear did you acquire which you believe will make a difference to your photography and your business in the upcoming years? Post your replies in the comments.


Let’s hear from you:

To make it interesting, there were two books available as prizes. (Or could be swapped out out for my book, On-Camera Flash (revised edition), or Direction & Quality of Light.

Winners were chosen by random number generator, and announced here. (comment #42)

Even though the contest is closed by now, you are more than welcome to still add your comments.


Studio Anywhere

Studio Anywhere, by Nick Fancher. A photographer’s guide to shooting in unconventional locations.

With photographer Nick Fancher as your guide, you will learn how to get portfolio-ready photos while working i some of my most problematic scenarios imaginable … with a minimum of gear. There is no need for an expensive studio 0 you just have to get creative.

If you are curious about the premise of this book, you can order it through Amazon USA or Amazon UK.

Boudoir Photography Cookbook

Boudoir Photography Cookbook: In 60 easily digestible sections, (aka the recipes), Jen Rozenbaum presents essential skills that will help you with boudoir photography. Of course I am a little biased when it comes to this book – Anelisa is on the cover.

While Jennifer covers lighting, wardrobe, and other aspects of boudoir photography, the core of those book focuses on posing. The book has a targeted look at various posing strategies that will really enhance your subject.

If you are curious about the premise of this book, you can order it through Amazon USA or Amazon UK.


My best photography purchases for 2017


Nikon 300mm f/4E PF

For a long time I didn’t have a longer lens than my 70-200mm f/2.8 but when the solar eclipse of 2017 rolled near, I decided to buy the Nikon 300mm f/4E PF lens (B&H / Amazon) to use with a 1.4x converter for extra reach. What swayed me was that it uses a 77mm filter. I didn’t expect to be so blown away by the sharpness of this lens, and just how compact it is. (Less than 6″ long.) It easily fits into my camera bag, and it has already helped me at one wedding this year where the church lady banished me to the back and outer perimeter of the church. This lens gave me the reach I needed without cropping.

I have used it at engagement photo sessions, but while it is super compact and light-weight, it is just too long to work within earshot of the couple. The sharpness and bokeh are just wonderful.

For now this lens will be in my camera bag as my secret weapon for when I unexpectedly need a longer lens.


Sony FE 85mm f/1.8

I’ve been playing more and more with vintage lenses, using a Sony A72. In getting my hands on a Sony A7R3 for review purposes, I was stuck without a proper, modern lens for the Sony mirrorless bodies. I decided to invest in the Sony FE 85mm f/1.8 lens (B&H / Amazon), and was blown away by this little gem. It is razor-sharp. Autofocus is fast, and it is compact. Just a brilliant little optic and already a favorite.



Profoto A1 flash

Every now and then I am loaned new gear for review purposes. (For example, from my friends at B&H). Occasionally the item is so good that I decide to purchase it to own it, and not have to return it.

The Profoto A1 flash (affiliate) is one of these. It fits in so well with the rest of my Profoto gear, that I will be buying at least another one as soon as they become more readily available in the USA. Even though it is spendy, it is powerful, can be fired fast, is reliable … and works as a transmitter as well.

Even better, when I shot with the Sony 85mm f/1.8 and needed off-camera flash, I was able to fire my Nikon-mount Profoto A1 with the Profoto transmitter for Sony. For me that extends the usability of the flash even further.




Holdfast Money Maker 2-camera harness

Previously I have been okay with just the usual camera straps on my cameras, but since my adventure in Italy, I needed a harness system to help me not feel fatigued carrying one or two cameras with me during photo shoots and weddings. Listening to advice that I got from various other photographers, I relented on the idea of not wearing bondage gear at weddings.

I settled on the Holdfast Money Maker 2-camera harness (B&H / Amazon). And it really does help!

Oh, and if  you are also annoyed by how the metal rings squeak when you walk, then a simple dab of lip balm where the metal rings touch, helps wonders!




Other purchases I am very happy with 

  • The unusual Mitakon Zhongyi Speedmaster 50mm f/0.95  lens (review article).
  • The rectangular Angler Parsail 60″ Umbrellas (review article), for headshots where the ceiling height is low.
  • Solar eclipse stuff for the Solar Eclipse 2017, even though I was limited to staying in New York for the event.
  • I bought another Drobo 5Tn RAID array for the ever-expanding amount of photos shot for time-lapse projects.
  • Another Nikon D810 just for time-lapse photography. I keep the Nikon 20mm f/1.8 permanently on this camera to avoid dust on the sensor.
  • A light-weight Sirui tripod that I keep in the car.
  • Two Sennheiser AVX lavalier wireless sets (affiliate) for video work.
  • I found a used 4×6 sized Oliphant backdrop. I’m moving up in the world!



Interesting photo gear, but I’m still undecided

Manfrotto Snake Arm

An interesting piece of studio gear I saw for sale on the FM Forums, caught my eye – the Manfrotto Snake Arm (B&H / Amazon)  Reading up about it on B&H’s site, I was intrigued. You could loosen the flexible arm, and pivot in all kinds of bendy ways. I thought it might be one of those things which, when you need it, you need it. I decided to buy it since it was a good deal … now I just need to find a use for it! For now it just looks so pretty.

As an aside, the first time I searched for it on B&H’s website, it autocorrected to “man grotto snake arm”. I’m not sure how I feel about this one.


Truly superb camera gear … that just wasn’t for me

Nikon D850

I was really excited about the Nikon D850 (B&H / Amazon), and immediately picked one up via NPS when it was released. A state-of-the-art camera. Top of the field. Spectacular image quality. All of that. But there was just one crucial flaw for me … and I sold the camera again after a week. It just wasn’t what I needed.

Here is my review: Nikon D850 camera which will explain this in a lot more detail, with sample images. If you’re in too much of a rush to read the article, skip to the summary. It all came down to this – for the vast majority of my work, I need a camera in the 20-24 megapixel range, and the medium RAW files of the D850, which would have been perfect at 25 megapixels, were just too soft. Sadly I had to let the camera go. But it did make me love my Nikon D5 even more. 



This was disappointing

I bought a Vello adapter for Nikon F to Sony E-mount from B&H with the idea that I could use my Nikon lenses on a Sony body, and without changing systems, have access to a camera with a silent shutter. Yay! Except that the adapter fried my Sony A7II.

It cost me $275 to repair this camera. (Nevermind the parking and tolls to get to Manhattan.) Below is the note that the repair place two blocks up from the B&H store had on the repair slip. I did return the Vello adapter for a full refund. B&H and the Vello rep said I am the only one that has reported a problem like this. This may well be a one-off thing that randomly happened, but I’m not risking a Vello adapter on my camera again! Photography is expensive enough without taking unnecessary risks.


Amazing review items that I had as loaners, but needed to return

The Canon 85mm f/1.4 IS is a spectacular lens! Razor-sharp, with stabilization.
Here is my review: Canon EF 85mm f/1.4L IS lens

Similarly, the Sony A7R III is a superb camera, on the same level as the Nikon D850. Astonishing technology. We have never had it so good! The review will be coming up soon.


The sad news – camera gear that I bought, but haven’t used yet.

Just like the under-used Fuji X-T20 that I mentioned earlier on, there are two items that I bought that are still mint in the box, unused. That’s just sad, but life and work sometimes gets in the way of everything we want to play with.

  • Ikan gimbal  (intended to be used with the Fuji X-T20)
  • GoPro Hero 5


Your turn!

That’s it for me. Now it’s your turn. Let us know which photo-related goodies you bought this year that you loved, and those you didn’t.


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review: Canon EF 85mm f/1.4L IS lens

This review of the Canon EF 85mm f/1.4L IS lens (B&H), is split into two parts: In this review article we will look at lens sharpness and other important factors. The accompanying review article specifically looks at the bokeh of this lens compared to other 85mm lenses in its class. This is an important update of their 85mm lens, since it includes stabilization. The legendary Canon 85mm f/1.2L II  (B&H) (in both incarnations), is much loved by photographers, even to the point where some ascribe some near-mythical quality to the look of the images it can produce. Can this new lens match, or even surpass that? I think so. I do believe a new legend was born.

There is a combination of  things I look for in a lens – central sharpness, edge-to-edge sharpness, bokeh, speed of AF, repeatability of focus. Some of these factors might outweigh others, but the overall balance of how the lens performs on all fronts, will determine its value for me. For this review, I compared these three lenses which are all in the same price bracket, and max aperture bracket.

In my opinion this new  Canon EF 85mm f/1.4L IS (B&H) stabilized lens is the clear winner. The Canon 85mm f/1.4 IS definitely focuses faster than the classic Canon 85mm f/1.2 II. The stabilization is incredible, and really extends the usefulness of this lens. Scroll down to see an example of how sharp a 1/4 second handheld image is. This lens is sharp, appears to be very well constructed. It feels solid, yet weighs less than the other comparable lenses.

In summary, this new Canon 85mm f/1.4 IS lens easily outperforms the older Canon 85mm f/1.2 with speed and accuracy of focus, but most importantly, sharpness! This new lens wipes the floor with the legend. It’s that good. The Sigma 85mm ART lens performed well, but focusing was inconsistent with the Sigma – when it was on, it was sharp, but then there were too many slightly mis-focused images.

A few things to note about this review:  I shot everything with the Canon 6D. I shot multiple sequences at apertures ranging from f/1.2 to f/4 but in the end we are mostly just interested in what these type of lenses do when used wide open. In other words, here we are only going to look at f/1.2 and f/1.4 apertures.

Another caveat: I have to admit that I have a bias against Canon. I am not a particularly big fan of Canon. I have been burnt in the past by poor quality control of Canon gear, as explained in more detail in the Canon vs Nikon article. The subsequent implication then is that if I think a piece of Canon gear is really good, then it really is really good! And the Canon EF 85mm f/1.4L IS lens (B&H) is spectacular. And I can back this up with images shot specifically for this review, over several photo sessions.

Let’s have a look at some images:



Specifications of the Canon EF 85mm f/1.4L IS lens

  • The fast aperture makes the Canon EF 85mm f/1.4 IS, well suited for portraits. Especially with the stabilization capabilities, it extends the use of the lens in low light.
  • As an L-series lens, it is characterized by a sophisticated optical layout that includes one glass-molded aspherical element to greatly reduce spherical aberrations and distortion for improved sharpness and clarity. Individual elements also feature an Air Sphere coating (ASC) to suppress lens flare and ghosting for greater contrast and color fidelity in backlit situations.
  • As with all L-series lenses, this 85mm f/1.4 has a dust- and weather-resistant construction, as well as a fluorine coating on exposed elements, to benefit its use in harsh environmental conditions.
  • A ring-type Ultrasonic Motor (USM), along with optimized AF algorithms, is employed to deliver fast, precise, and near-silent autofocus performance.
  • Optical image stabilization minimizes the effects of camera shake by compensating for up to four stops of shutter speed.
  • A weather-resistant design protects the lens from dust and moisture to enable its use in inclement conditions.
  • Nine rounded diaphragm blades contribute to a pleasing out of focus quality that benefits the use of shallow depth of field and selective focus techniques.




The bokeh of the legendary Canon 85mm f/1.2 II is very much part of its appeal, so with this review it should be something we look at more closely. For that please follow the link to this accompanying review article



Image sharpness

We’ll look specifically at edge-to-edge sharpness in the next section – here we are going to look at the central sharpness. With the sharpness comparison, the  Canon EF 85mm f/1.4L IS (B&H), stood out. The Sigma 85mm f/1.4 ART  (B&H) was sharp … when it nailed focus. There were too many focusing inconsistencies though with the Sigma lens on the Canon 6D that I was using. The Canon 85mm f/1.2L II  (B&H) has its own look, whether at f/1.2 or f/1.4 but it was noticeably softer compared to new the new f/1.4 optic.

And yes, it was a cold and windy day. But you’ll get the idea. This was typical of the sharpness that I got with these lenses.



Edge-to-edge sharpness

There is this little eatery close to where I live which I thought would be ideal for a test to check lens sharpness from edge to edge. I thought this would be ideal – I can stand across the road, and shoot on a tripod, and then we can see how the lettering appears at various apertures for these lenses. I went inside and just checked with the owner that it would be okay, and he agreed. I set up the tripod … and then someone parked right in front and walked in to sit down for breakfast. Oh well, we can still see the edges of the frame. But I had to mention this in case you were wondering why there is a pick-up trick in the middle of this non-photograph.

With this quick test, the Canon EF 85mm f/1.4L IS lens  (B&H) wipes out the older Canon 85mm f/1/2 II  – it is clearly more sharp from edge to edge. The Sigma and the new Canon are close, but I would still give it to the new Canon 85mm f/1.4 IS. You may well argue that edge sharpness isn’t too important with this kind of lens – and it is something I mention specifically in my review of the Mitakon Zhongyi 50mm f/0.95  lens, where there is so much optical aberrations to the edges of the Mitakon, that you are forced to shoot photos which are centrally composed. In that case, I am okay working around the limitations of the usual f/0.95 optic. However, when you are dealing with a more expensive lens that you want to use for serious or professional work, then it has bearing on the matter – I want a lens that is as sharp as possible, from edge to edge, even at widest aperture.

With these examples, I am only showing the results at f/1.2 and f/1.4 even though I shot a number of repetitive sequences all the way down to f/4 for all three lenses. I picked the sharpest of the images out of any particular sequence, just in case there were slight mis-focusing, or error in my technique. I’m pretty confident that what is shown here, is representative of the three lenses I had for testing.





The stabilization works! And it works surprisingly well. Even better in my experience than mentioned on the specifications list where it is stated that the IS improves hand-holdabilty by up to 4 stops of shutter speed.

I took numerous sequences of this early-evening view of Manhattan. I was mostly getting sharp images even down to ridiculously slow shutter speeds of 1/4 second handheld!  Even down to 1/2 second handheld, I got a few sharp-enough images, but the success rate did start to fall at that crazy slow shutter speed. I handheld this shot, and didn’t brace myself against a railing or anything. Just handheld. And even at 1/4 second, most of the sequences I shot ranged from ‘sharp’ to ‘pretty sharp’. This is incredible performance!

Read that again. Handheld at 1/4 second. One of several sharp shots! My success ratio dropped at 1/2 second … only a few were sharp. Above 1/4 second, consistently sharp (although I did obviously lose a few shots.)

Oh, and if you want to quibble the sharpness of this image, keep in mind that there will be some haze in the air – I am shooting across the river, and this is a busy city with turbulent air.



Of course the lens vignettes at the widest aperture – nothing unexpected there. For me, I don’t mind the vignetting at full aperture for portraits – I think it helps for portraits. (The image below is uncorrected.) When you stop down, it disappears, as you’d expect.



I am wildly impressed with this lens – it focuses fast. Definitely faster than the classic Canon 85mm f/1.2 II.

The stabilization is incredible, and really extends the usefulness of this lens.

This lens is sharp, appears to be very well constructed. It feels solid, yet weighs less than the other comparable lenses.

You can buy a copy of this lens via B&W: Canon EF 85mm f/1.4L IS lens  (B&H)


Related links


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review: Bokeh of the Canon EF 85mm f/1.4L IS lens

In the accompanying review article, the Canon 85mm f/1.4L IS lens (B&H) really stood out in terms of image sharpness. Here I want to linger a bit on the bokeh of this lens, especially as compared to the much-loved Canon 85mm f/1.2L II  (B&H).

The comparison includes these three lenses, since they are in the same league:

Please also check out the review: Canon EF 85mm f/1.4L IS lens.

Now, before we progress any further, we need to be distinguish between Bokeh and Shallow depth-of-field. While DoF affects the bokeh of a lens, those two terms are not interchangeable: Bokeh vs Shallow depth-of-field (DoF). Bokeh is the quality of the background blur. In other words, the aesthetic appeal of the blur. Bokeh is not another word for blur, but a descriptor of the blur of (usually) the background. It can be smooth, it can be harsh. It can be pleasant, it can be jittery. It can be appealing and enhance the photograph, but we can’t have “more bokeh”. That makes no sense. Okay, with all that behind us, let’s go on.

For this review, I photographed various models during various photo sessions. All the images were shot with the Canon 6D, and I used a light-weight tripod. While I did use the tripod to keep my angle the same, our models aren’t statues, and they will move slightly between frames.  This meant I had to adjust the camera slightly on the tripod. The light did change subtly over time as I did the sequence. And each lens will have a different rendition of the colors anyway. Some lenses appear ‘warmer’ in how they render the scene. So there will be some slight change between the images, but I do believe the images are close enough that we can form a valid opinion about what we prefer.

In summary: The difference in the blur is … well, you can make your own mind up, but to my eye they all look pretty similar with a smooth rendition of the background blur. The new Canon 85mm f/1.4 IS lens holds up very well against the classic Canon 85mm f/1.2 II. I don’t think anyone who upgrades to the new lens will lose any of the “magic” of the older 85mm lens.

Let’s have a look at some of these comparative sequences:

Please note, I cropped these images to a 4×5 ratio to make them viable on desktop computers when I resized them for 900px width. This means that a little bit off the top, and a little bit off the bottom of each image was cropped off to make viewing easier within this blog format.

With the comparison photos, I didn’t bother with the f/1.4 images of the Canon 85mm f/1.2 II, since the differences between f1/2 and f/1.4 were marginal, and barely discernible.









Bokeh and ‘real world’ importance

With the next few images, I shot handheld instead of the tripod. In addition, the background changes as the people on this 6th Avenue (New York) sidewalk swirl around. So we can see the bokeh is wonderful but we can’t really compare in any useful way between the lenses. Still, they look good. In that sense, if we were to do a photo shoot or a wedding or such with any of these lenses, it would be difficult to pick which lens was used with any particular image.

The bokeh of a lens is important, but not when the differences are marginal. Then other aspects of a lens’ abilities and qualities are more what we should consider.




As mentioned in the review  of the Canon EF 85mm f/1.4L IS, I am hugely impressed. The lens is crazy-sharp! Not only does it focus much faster than the legendary Canon 85mm f/1.2 II, the bokeh in my opinion also holds up very well in comparison. The Sigma 85mm f/1.4 ART lens is also very sharp, and the bokeh is comparable to at least the Canon 85mm f/1.4 IS lens, but it does lack the stabilization of the new Canon lens.

All around, the Canon 85mm f/1.4 IS lens stands out above the other two lenses.

You can buy a copy of this lens via B&W: Canon EF 85mm f/1.4L IS lens  (B&H)


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