Saturday, November 8, 2008

"What is that thing on your camera?"

Often when shooting with a flash, I use a ‘diffuser’ on the flash to prevent the harsh, washed out look that can take place when using direct flash. Hence, one of the first questions I receive. “What is that on top of your camera?” When I use the Gary Fong Lightsphere, I get the statement. “Why do you have a Tupperware bowl on your camera?” My response, so I can carry breath mints around for subjects with bad breath. [ok, I don’t say that but I do want to carry them around even for me. Especially, when I ate something bathed in garlic.]

Diffusers come in many ‘flavors’. Lumiquest, Gary Fong’s line, and others are available for purchase. Photographers also have the option of making one of their own. Today, I will focus exclusively on the Gary Fong’s LIGHTSPHERE-II since I have experience using the LIGHTSPHERE-II and in a future post I will discuss multiple diffusers/light modifiers from Lumiquest. I have used Lumiquest products for at least five years and my favorite is the Promax since it is multiple diffusers/light modifiers in ‘one’.

Gary Fong P1 Clear Lightsphere II Inverted Dome Flash Diffusion System.

Before I get into discussing each type, let us review why a [in my opinion] diffuser should be used. Typically, when a flash is used to light a scene, it can be very harsh which washes out the subject. Have you ever taken a photo and wondered why the faces or other subject lack detail and the highlights are all ‘blown out’? It is because all of the light from the flash is directed in one area of the scene. If you are attempting to light a large room, we all pity the person directly in front of the flash. They cannot see for days and the person in the back of the room is dark and in shadows. The person directly in front of the flash seeks the number of the nearest eye doctor while you stand there and wonder how to fix the image in Photoshop.

There are many diffusers/light modifiers on the market and most of them claim to be the best. Keep in mind the role of a diffuser is to control the light. Some diffusers/light modifiers move the light through a ‘mini’ soft box and others will shoot the light in many directions with the intent to bathe the scene with light. When you purchase or build your diffuser, keep in mind your intended use. A diffuser which is the same size as the flash head is not a soft box since the light is not distributed to a larger area but it is diffused to reduce the harshness from the flash.

In theory, you can use a wall as a diffuser. If you aim your flash at a wall, it will bounce the light and the entire wall could become your diffuser/light modifier. Make note, if the wall is a bright red color, your light will have a red tint to it.

Another larger form of a light diffuser is a soft box or umbrella. The focus of this lesson is not either of these two tremendous tools. Typically, if you are shooting an event you cannot carry around a light stand for your strobe and umbrella.

Another valuable reason to use a diffuser is to reduce the dreaded ‘red eye’. Yes, I understand if you are shooting the company Christmas party and your boss had one too many to drink, red eye might be unavoidable regardless of any lighting technique.

Most of the discussion today will be around using a diffuser/light modifier for an external flash. [Basically, the flash that is not part of the camera.] There are diffusers for the pop-up flash, which will help in reducing the harshness of the flash and the potential for red-eye. They can be made from an old ping-pong ball by cutting an opening in it or from a Styrofoam cup. I have one I purchased from Lumiquest in my bag in the event either I do not have my external flash with me or I need to take a fast picture and I do not have time to set up the external flash. [They work in a ‘pinch’ and can be bought for approximately $10.]

Lumiquest Soft Screen, a Diffusion Sheet for On-Camera Pop-up Flashes.

On to the Gary Fong LIGHTSPHERE-II.

I have been using it for a few months and I highly recommend it! The image above was taken in a hallway with the subject very close to the wall. Notice there are no harsh shadows and virtually no shadow from the subject against the wall. I was close to the subject using a 50mm Nikkor on my d200.

Notice in the second image there are no harsh shadows against the wall and the light is very even across the subject.

The Lightsphere-II causes the flash to bathe the subject with very soft light rather than harsh light from a direct flash. [Gary Fong has multiple videos on his site which demonstrate the Lightsphere in great detail.]

I have used the Lightsphere-II in many different situations with the same results each time. Group photos in a tight or open space come out very even using the Lightsphere-II.

Again, I highly recommend it and use it almost always when using a flash indoors. It is pricier than other diffusers and therefore I recommend looking for a used one on Amazon.

Gary Fong P1 Clear Lightsphere II Inverted Dome Flash Diffusion System.

My subject was portraying the part of Queen Ester in a dramatic presentation of the Power of One.
Winter is fast approaching with many new photo opportunities. Get out and enjoy the beauty of life!

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Better use of our time and staying fit in the winter

Image taken with Nikkor 85mm @ f/2.0 1/60 second, ISO 800
Consider this suggestion!

Recently, I heard a great tip with multiple ways to stay in shape when there appears to be no time. I was listening to the podcast, 'Get it done ' and he had a guest speaker on that gave a few tips on staying in shape when no time is available. I suggest listening to the entire show for all the great tips but the two that I started doing last week and plan to do all winter are:
  • Pushups every hour- Yes, those dreaded pushups from gym class are a great body toning tool and do help release some of the stress and fatigue associated to office work. The suggestion is that every hour you do 20 pushups and after the normal office day of 9 hours you will perform 180 pushups. You say, "I cannot do 20 pushups." OK, start with 10, 5, 1 per hour then each day build up to 20 or more. By the end of winter you will be fit and will have added a nice workout every day to your day without losing any time. I do mine using the 'perfect pushup' device and I get a nice workout daily.
  • Perfect Pushup - Original
  • Cardiac exercise via the steps in your office building. Multiple times per day go for a walk up and down the stairs in your office building. The office I work in has four floors and the steps are not far from my office door. The first day I did the jaunt from the second floor to the fourth floor down to the first floor and but to the second floor got my heart pounding. Each day it is getting easier but I can tell you that it is tougher climbing steps then going for a walk at the mall.
I hope this helps! As always, get out and capture the beauty of life!

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Power of one

A determined person can change the course of history through the power of love. These three images represent three historical figures that changed the course of time. In the lower left is Queen Ester who through the power of her love and the Love of God stopped the plot by Haman to destroy the Jews.

And Esther said, The adversary and enemy is this wicked Haman. Then Haman was afraid before the king and the queen. Esther 7:6

The image in the lower right represents Martin Luther King Jr. who through the power of words set forth a movement in the sixties that changed the course of history [for the better]. "I have a dream..."

Finally, the top image represents the Lord, Jesus Christ who died on the cross to save us from our sin.

John 15:13 Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.

Many other historical figures changed history for the worse, Hitler, Madeline Murray O'Hare, and many others spilled out their vile hatred on others. They put forth a mark that proves that a determined person can influence history. Hence, the greatest message we can gain from this brief illustration is that every one of us can impact history for the better or worse. It is our choice.

Joshua 24:15 And if it seem evil unto you to serve the LORD, choose you this day whom ye will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the flood, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell: but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.

The images werer shot at f/5.6, 1/15 second, ISO 1000, spot metering and shot in manual.
They were hand held with my body resting on a ledge for support with an effective focal length of 405 [35 mm range]. This was shot with my Nikkor 70-300vr with vr enabled. There are multiple reasons these shots were possible with a slow shutter speed of 1/15 second and a long focal length. 1. The subjects were not moving. Their part in the 'performance' was to remain still. 2. I was leaning on a ledge for support. This support reduced the amount of movement in my body. {Exhale just prior to pressing the shutter. This will reduce some movement.} 3. The VR on the lens reduced camera shake.

By using manual mode over any of the programmed modes, I was able to control the exposure to achieve a gretter effect of the lights behind the subject. Finally, I used spot metering to ensure I metered on the subject only and the camera meter did not take into account the entire scene.