Not trying to be political here, folks. Before the 25th, I usually wish people Happy Holidays. On the 25th, I wish them Merry Christmas. And to show that I also appreciate globalism, I wish you not only a Merry Christmas but a Joyeux Noel, Feliz Navidad, Frohe Weihnachten, and Buon Natale. I’d do the wishing in Japanese, Korean and Chinese, too, but I don’t have the keyboard for it.
Anyway, you get my point. I hope everybody has a great day, today, no matter whether you celebrate the holiday or not. And, start planning for some great adventures for 2018. I know I’m going to!
I subscribe to Petapixel. It’s an online magazine with all sorts of neat articles about the latest photography news (did you know Lensrentals.com and LensProToGo are merging?), cameras, camera gear, projects, etc. The other day, I read an article that piqued my interest and I ended up sharing it to my Facebook photography page (Rebecca Latson Photography). I thought I’d share it in a blog post too. To read the actual article, click on this link.
After reading the article, I decided to do some experimenting with strings of multi-colored Christmas lights (since I had 5 strings of them and only 2 strings of the white lights), using the same settings that the photographer, Irene Rudnyk applied (ISO 500, f1.2, 1/250 shutter speed, 85mm lens). Heaven knows, I didn’t have anything better to do, like laundry, dishes, or packing. It was a fun little experiment and I gained some valuable insights. Photography is about experimentation as well as about learning new techniques and ideas and stepping outside one’s own comfort zone to apply something new that they’ve learned. That’s how a good photographer becomes a great photographer.
- Ignore the clutter in the room and concentrate on the camera/light/backdrop/light setup. Just as in Ms. Rudnyk’s room, this light project can be accomplished in a very small space.
- Yes, you can do this project with just one person (yourself), but it’s not as easy. Because I was both photographer and model, and because I was using a remote shutter release instead of being the one to look through the lens at the subject, I kept checking the images to ensure I was positioned correctly in front of the lens and that the string of lights did not get in the way of the lens. You can see what happens when a colored light is in front of the subject and too close to a lens wide-open at f1.2. You also may notice just how shallow the DOF is on a 85mm lens wide-open. I didn’t mind that too much, as it added a teeny bit of dreamy quality to the shot.
- I carried out this project twice, over the course of 2 days. During my first attempt, I wasn’t using an 85mm lens, nor did I have the aperture wide-open to get the maximum bokeh. I used different settings as well, since I didn’t remember what Ms. Rudnyk’s settings were – I didn’t learn that until I actually watched her YouTube video embedded in the article.
- Ms. Rudnyk used white lights in a light, neutral-toned room with a large picture window letting in natural blue/white side light. Her model was pale and wore light-colored clothing. I was in a cluttered spare bedroom, in the evening – so no natural light – using a black backdrop and strings of multi-colored lights. The strings were dark (as opposed to the white strings used in Ms. Rudnyk’s images, which is why I used the black backdrop). I used a tall lamp near the camera for side-lighting. Sometimes the strings still showed through, but I don’t consider them too distracting.
- Because of the darker atmosphere, I used Curves to lighten, and sometimes Levels to brighten the composition. I also had to clone out a dark spot on my front tooth – I have a natural indentation on the tooth and it catches the shadow, so in some photos, it looks like a speck of food (sigh).
- I used my Canon 5DSR for this shoot. I love this camera, but it totally stinks regarding low-light, higher-ISO noise (what’s up with that Canon?). So I applied some Imagenomic-brand Noiseware noise-reduction software to the overall composition, which reduced/removed grain and helped my skin look a little more even (I’m definitely not as young as Ms. Rudnyk’s model).
All-in-all, it was a fun project and I like the results. Plus, I learned a new technique for neat portrait shots.
Note: If you are doing this all yourself:
- Use a wireless remote rather than the timer on your camera. Really, it is easier.
- Make certain you have a sturdy step-ladder and/or a spotter to keep you steady while you hang the light strings from the ceiling.
- Unless you want to put holes in your ceiling, I would suggest using something like duct tape. Gorilla-brand tape works really well. If you use any other kind of tape, it may be too weak to hold up the light strings for any length of time. I noticed this morning that the tape and lights had fallen from the ceiling to the floor.
- If you want light strings to lead to your lens, don’t use tape or anything else to secure the strings to the lens. Simply wrap the string around the lens itself to keep the string in place.
- Remember to stand in front of the light strings to get the nice bokeh.
- Have fun! Despite getting all sweaty and hot as I hung the lights up, set up the camera and ran back and forth to take a shot then look at the result, it was a neat, educational project.
Becky’s little Christmas tree, with a suitcase on the right to hide the electric cords, and part of a studio light because – at the time – I had no other place to put it
I did not plan on putting up my tree this year. After all, I’d be visiting my sister and her family for the holidays, so why go to the effort of putting up a tree I would not see for the final 1-1/2 weeks of December?
One afternoon, however, during the weekend prior to Thanksgiving, while on a long walk, I was thinking how nice it would be to see bright, multi-color lights. My mind’s eye saw all sorts of photo ops….
No solicitation, Santa. Just leave the presents and don’t try to sell me anything.
2015 was a horrible year. So I wanted to do something to send off the year end with a bang. I happened to see a photo of the 2014 NYE London fireworks over the London Eye, and I knew that was where I needed to be for the final days of 2015. To that end, I took a 10-day trip to Europe: 8 days in London and 2 days in Paris.
What did I take with me for this trip? Too much. I’ll have you know, however, that I used almost every single piece of photographic equipment I lugged with me. So there!
- 3 camera bodies, all Canon: 1DX, 5DSR, 5DS (in case one body didn’t work, I had two others – redundancy is a photographer’s friend)
- 1 small flash: Canon Speedlite 270EX II
- 3 different wireless shutter releases (that redundancy thing, again)
- 5 lenses, all Canon: 11-24, 16-35 f4L IS, 50mm f1.2L, 24-70mm f2.8L, 24-105mm (I used the 24-105 by far the most as it was the best walk-around lens)
- My Induro 8X CT-414 carbon fiber tripod and BHD3 ballhead
- A gazillion memory cards (8, 16, 32 and 64 GB)
- All of my spare camera batteries for both the 1DX and 5DS cameras
- A couple of polarizer filters (which I think I used only once, but at least I had them)
- Lens hoods for each of the lenses
Of course I took my laptop, 2 portable HDs of 1TB each, and 2 memory card readers. I made copies of the photos onto both HDs and the laptop itself, since – again – redundancy is a photographer’s best friend.
Day 1 (Dec 23)
Filed under 1DX, 5DSR, Canon, Christmas, Equipment, Holidays, London, Night Photography, Photography, Travel, Uncategorized
My home is small, but cozy and bright with neat pictures hanging on the walls (grin)
I actually wasn’t going to put up a tree this year; too many other things going on. Then, one Saturday evening, I started thinking up photo ops that required the use of a brightly-lit and decorated tree. So, at 10PM that night, I pulled the tree out of storage; it’s fake and pre-lit so it makes setup and decorating a breeze.
Since the tree has been up, I’ve been milking the photos for all they are worth. I used my tripod, Canon 1DX and 5D Mk III, and either a 40mm pancake lens, a 24-105mm lens or my prime 85mm f1.2 lens to get the shots you see below. I love decorations and colored lights, so this has been fun and I’m glad I put that tree up, after all.
Here’s wishing all of you a Merry Christmas!
To stave off the post-Thanksgiving-tryptophan sleepies, I decided to clean my living room window so that my lovely little Christmas tree would show up better from the outside. Naturally, I had to take tripod and camera out after dark to capture images of this one little tree glowing brightly in the night. Apparently, I am either the only person with a tree in the entire apartment complex, or I am the only person who likes showing off their tree through the window.
This photo was taken shortly after sundown. I deliberately set the f-stop to 22 so the lights would create little starbursts. The ISO was 500, I used my 24-70mm lens with the focal length set to 24mm, and the shutter was open for 30 seconds.
I switched from to my 16-35mm lens because I wanted a much wider-angle view of the complex and my tree. The only issue was the fact that the oak tree branches in the yard drooped quite a bit. The ever-so-slight breeze took those drooping branches and blurred them during the 30-second shot. The ISO was 250. I had to use noise-reduction with this image (yes, you can sometimes get grainy low-light photos even when using a low ISO) and I ultimately cropped out as much of the offending blurred branches as I could, giving this image a sort of pseudo-pano look.
Lots of frames in this image above: the front lights on the brick columns, the frame created by the apartment complex architecture, and the frame created by the oak tree limbs.
The Magic Tree. Easy to do if you ever decide to experiment yourself. Just put your camera and zoom lens on a tripod, set the camera for however many seconds you wish, then play around with zooming the lens in and out to get some funky effects while the shutter is open.
I recently received my December 2013 edition of Photoshop User. Within that edition is their “Gonzo Holiday Gear Guide”. Naturally that was the first thing I turned to upon opening up the magazine.
The Canon close-up lens filters were items reviewed in this gear guide. These can be used for a Canon or Nikkor lenses. It mentioned how fun these little items were and compared to a real dedicated macro lens, they can be purchased at a fraction of the cost. So I figured, why not?
These filters come in several thread sizes, and there are actually two different filters. The 250D (which is what I ordered) is good for focal lengths of between 30 – 135mm, while the 500D is good for focal lengths of 70 – 300mm.
I affixed the close-up lens filter to my Canon 40mm lens to create a light, easy to carry, pseudo-macro lens which I then used to photograph ornaments on my Christmas tree.
All of the images you see of the ornaments in this blog post are totally un-cropped, so this should give you an idea of just how close I can maneuver my camera and lens to get these shots. Mind you, the depth of field (DOF) is pretty shallow (as you can see) and no, it’s not a dedicated macro. But, for what is essentially a magnifying glass (utilizing pretty good glass) that is light to use, easy to affix, easy to pack into a gear bag, and produces pretty darned good close up images, I’d say my $87 (this includes 2-day shipping) was well-spent. It’s going with me on my forthcoming December road trip to Big Bend National Park.