Saturday, November 15, 2008

The Ultimate Gift

The Ultimate Gift - The Movie
If you want to watch a movie that teaches a great 'life' lesson then the movie "The Ultimate Gift" is for you.  

The movie teaches a story of the many gifts offered through life's lessons and the importance of each 'gift'.  This is a movie you can watch with the entire family and explain the lessons taught to 'kids' in the house.  I am not sure if it is available at Blockbuster or Hollywood video.  We 'rent' our movies from Netflix and continue to find 'wholesome' movies that we could not find at the local video rental stores. 

The movie is based upon the book with the same title by Jim Stovall.  Jason Stevens, a trust fund baby is presented with multiple 'gifts' before he will receive an inheritance by his wealthy grandfather, Red Stevens.  In my opinion, it is one of those movies that can be watched over and over again.

Please watch the video insert below for a few scenes from the movie.

I took this image of a butterfly last year while on a business trip to south Florida.  It was taken with my 50mm f/1.8 set to f/16, 1/60 sec, ISO 400.  I 'solarized' it in Lightroom 1.x. to bring out the shapes and lines in the image.
Snow is fast approaching and I am sure many great photo opportunities!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Outdoor portraits continued Preserving the background

This is a continuation from yesterday's post. In this first picture I did not want to miss the beautiful sky created from the sunset.

I set the camera in manual mode and pointed the camera at the sky to check the exposure. Remembering the exposure I set-up the flash off the camera and pointed it to my subject. I lowered the output of the flash [Nikon SB-800] by a few stops. [I had to experiment with the settings to ensure proper exposure.] The camera was set to commander mode which enabled me to fire the SB-800 remotely using the on board flash as a 'trigger' flash for the SB-800. If your camera does not have this capability, there are other affordable alternatives. Years ago, I purchased a small 'remote' simple flash from Ritz for $20 or less that fired when another strobe fired. You could not modify the output but it was great to use for fill flash. Another alternative is to use a cable that connects your camera to your flash which enables off camera flash capabilities. [I will discuss this technique in future posts.]

The final settings on the camera was f/5.6, 1/250 sec, ISO 400. I shot this using my Tamron 17-50 mm f/2.8 @ 17mm.

In this image I experimented with my flash off camera on a light stand I had it positioned to my left pointed to the subjects. The camera settings are very similar to the first picture.

19mm, f/6.3 @ 1/250 sec, ISO 800.

Have fun and experiment with light.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Portraits outdoors

One of the most challenging parts about taking portraits outdoors is to avoid over or underexposing your subject.  Years ago, I was always told to put the subject to my back.  Later, I read to put the light behind and to the side of the subject.  If you place the sun to your back then the subject is looking into the sun and they are squinting.  The sun will light their face but they will look as if they are looking into the sun.  If you put the sun to their back then their face will be dark.  I never fully understood the correct method for shooting this type of situation until I learned to use a flash outdoors.  Once I started 'experimenting' with using my flash outdoors, I was amazed how the images changed. 
In the first example the sun was behind the subject and I used a 'fill' flash to light his face.  I also added a Polarizer filter to reduce some of the light into the camera.  [I suggest using your lens hood to reduce harsh light coming into the front of the lens.]  There are many methods to fill the face with a flash.  Review your manual for your flash for the setting for fill flash.  On the Nikon SB-800 or SB-600 select TTL-BL.  I used a 'diffuser' on my flash to 'spread' the light out in front of the subject.  If you do not use the fill flash then your subject will underexpose and your background will be exposed properly or your subject will be exposed properly and the background's highlights will blowout.  
Another method to control the light is to find shade and place your subject in the shade.  [This is the method I attempt to use whenever possible.]  In the second and third image, we moved under the trees which drastically reduced the light and the fill flash highlighted my subject without overexposing the background.  
In the final image I placed the subject in this 'mini' cave like structure and balanced the light coming into the opening from the left and filled the subject with my flash with a diffuser mounted on it.  
Experiment with using a flash outdoors to obtain a different look and 'feel' for your images.  In future post I will discuss the use of off camera flash both indoors and outdoors to obtain a look with 'dimension'.
On a fun and different note; I was experimenting with an apple butter I make at home.  Apples cooked with pecans, raisins, vanilla, stevia, honey, and cinnamon.  After cooking the apples and pecans until they are soft, I 'blend' the ingredients [minus the excess water] in a Vita Mix.  It creates an amazing apple butter like dish.  My grand daughter ate some and to quote; 'it is love in a bowl'.  Oh, yes honey pappy will get you whatever you want.  Ha ha...

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Hats off to those who serve to protect our great nation!

I created this image a few years ago in honor of all the men and women who serve[d] our great nation.  I made it especially for my dad who served in the military many years ago.  It is a compilation of multiple images I took from my travels.  My hat is off in honor to all the men and women who stand for this great nation.  This nation was built on Biblical values and hard work and will continue to prosper through the same methods that built this nation.

This image was created after the attacks of 09/11/01.  
Take the time to thank anyone that you see 'serving' this great nation including those in public service [e.g. fire fighters, police officers, etc.].

Monday, November 10, 2008

Diffusers part II - plus tips to reduce glare on glasses

My wife took this image of me using an 85mm f1.8 on the Nikon D200. I set the camera up for her using aperture priority - f/3.5 @ ISO 400 and the SB800 on the camera. The Gary Fong Lightsphere II was attached to the SB800 to reduce glare on my glasses. The backdrop was our backyard. The flash illuminated me but 'blacked out' the backyard to create an illusion of a black background.
Have you ever attempted to take a picture of someone with glasses while using a flash and all you get is a glare on the glasses? It is very frustrating to take a picture of someone with glasses and all you get is a glare that looks like a distress flare from a sinking ship.
Tip one: Stand 'higher' than your subject. In this case I was on one knee [as a subject is in front of royalty :-) ] before my wife which helped reduce the glare and reduce the look of a double chin.
Tip two: The Gary Fong Lightsphere II helped too! Both techniques combined eliminated any glare off my glasses. As I mentioned in yesterday's post; I highly recommend the Lightsphere II.

With the holidays approaching fast [can you believe Thanksgiving is only weeks away] there is no doubt you will have many opportunities to take pictures of friends and family who wear glasses. Keep these tips in mind. If you cannot get higher than your subject [they are the next NBA star standing in at 7'10" and you are 5'5" then you might have a problem. However, for most situations, position yourself higher than your subject if you need to use a flash. Even if you have to stand on a stool or chair. [Hopefully, the chair isn't a swivel chair and all you do is spin around.] Standing on a stool or chair [be careful not to hit your head on the ceiling].

Another tip is to not use a flash if you have enough light. Even if you have to bump up the ISO to 800 [unless you have small point and shoot then the noise might be too much] and reduce your shutter speed to 1/60 or even 1/30 of a second. If you have to reduce your shutter speed to 1/30 second then instruct your subject to remain as still as possible. It is critical that you do not move either.

Have fun and get out and capture the beauty of life!