Mar 132013
A Mountain of Blue

It seemed easy enough. The client, a vitamin manufacturer, wanted a picture of one of their organic compounds, a bright blue powder. I thought making a small pile was going to be easy, but it turned out to be more challenging because it was extremely fine and also clumped and splattered easily when it rolled down the sides. So I had to invent some miniature spoon like tools and brushes to very carefully create and shape the mound. And if it splattered, I had to start anew because there was no way to clean the fine powder.

After a few attempts, holding my breath at times and an hour or two later, I had my miniature mountain but it was less than an inch high. This created other challenges like lighting to show the texture and to have the whole image in sharp focus.

A narrow grid spot light was moved around on top and to the back until I had good texture and shadow, and a second light was used as a general fill. The focus was another issue since even with the lens stepped down, only a small area was in focus. The solution was to shoot several images, each one focused on a different progressive spot covering the whole area from front to back. This final product is actually a composite of nine separate images assembled in Photoshop with a technique called photo stacking.

View or bellows cameras always had the ability to tilt the lens to an extent enabling better depth of field on a single shot. Since Photoshop has made it possible to achieve similar capabilities with standard digital cameras and lenses, I often use it as needed with better control and best of all – infinite focus depth.

 March 13, 2013  Product Tagged with:  3 Responses »
Jan 312013

It’s always a nice collaboration to work with performers who know their way in front of a camera and to have the opportunity to shoot with different styles and techniques. A talented actor and singer, Nicole needed some new headshots for a CD cover and other promo uses.  Nicole was looking for a straight forward dark style, so only a couple lights were used, one main light and a rear side fill, with additional color and tone manipulation done in post processing.


 January 31, 2013  Editorial, People Tagged with:  2 Responses »
Dec 162012
Crop Circles

 Whenever I go on location with several cases of equipment depending on the job, clients often wonder why so much equipment is needed. I usually answer that I only need about a third of it, however, I never know which third.

This also applies to the camera case, where I usually have lenses ranging from an 8mm fisheye which sees 180 degrees, to the other end of the spectrum – a 500mm lens which has only a 5 degree angle of view, along with converters which doubles the power.

I seldom used the 500mm lens when I was using DX cameras, due to the smaller sensor which converts this lens to a whopping 750mm. But now that I back to shooting full frame, I’ve rediscovered what I used to love about this lens – not it’s sharpness, which is OK, but I love the way points of lights turns into circles when out of focus.

MumsThis “bokeh” ( how a lens renders out of focus parts of the image ) is the result of it being a “catadioptric” design. Unlike a normal lenses, the image is reflected off a couple of mirrors much like a telescope and that causes the circles or “donuts” as some call it. This also allows it to be light and compact compared to a standard lens design.

The images were part of a series done for Valley Book, a directory for residents and businesses in the Farmington valley. One of the locations to scout for possible covers was the Pickin’ Patch in Avon. I was also instructed that the client was not very fond the usual pumpkin-shots-in-the-field scenics,  so in looking for a different approach on a bright sunny day, I thought the 500 would give a different feel to a common, overdone subject. To get that bokeh, I purposedly shot facing into the sun to get those light sparkles which turn into circles. Sometimes even without the circles,  the lens’ shallow depth of field makes for interesting results often simplifying a busy scene.

It’s been probably several years since the last time I’ve taken a picture with the 500, and had considered selling it,  but I still carry it around faithfully everyday as part of the arsenal. Hey, one never knows when a rarely used lens saves the day, and that’s why we carry all that stuff.

 December 16, 2012  Editorial, Landscapes, Photography Tagged with:  6 Responses »
Sep 162012
Starry Starry Night

When I’m in a contemplative mood, there is nothing like looking up on a clear late summer night with the Milky Way clearly visible, trying to get a sense of it all.  However, my mind never stills for very long and before you know it I’m wondering, “How is it possible to capture this in a photograph?”

Actually, quite easily with today’s digital camera technology. I always marveled at astronomical photography and all the wonders of the universe, but capturing it without very specialized equipment made it very difficult, until now. I’ve been seeing some awesome night sky images and videos recently, often by photographers with better locations (and patience) away from air and light pollution, but I decided to give it a try with my new Nikon D800 and a 14mm super wide angle lens. It’s amazing how much increased detail is captured out of the darkness.

Whether photographing the Milky Way or a dimly lit situation, the sensors on professional cameras haves come a long way to capture great images under extremely low light conditions, allowing for pictures that were impossible not too long ago. Capturing the night sky is basically a long exposure at a high ISO, but there are a few caveats. First, high ISO means more noise, so there’s a trade-off in quality the higher you go. I decided to shoot at ISO 1600 with the lens wide open at f2.8. Secondly, a long exposure requires a good steady tripod and cable release (or you can set the timer to do it) to eliminate any camera movement. And thirdly, how does one focus in pitch darkness? With the camera set to manual focus, I focused on a lighted object quite a distance away and marked the infinity spot on the lens.

The maximum automatic time exposure on the D800 and many other cameras is 30 seconds, so that’s what I used. If longer time was needed, I simply had to use the  “bulb” setting and manually hold the shutter open for whatever longer time. I quickly realized that thirty seconds was the maximum though, there are already slight streaks on the stars. After all, the earth is rotating and swirling thru space at 67,000 miles an hour. If more exposure was needed, I had to increase the ISO. The light pollution from distant towns is visible as the orange glow above the trees.

Just to do something during the exposures, the light on the near trees was actually light painted by aiming a handheld LED flashlight at them. I can only imagine how much more spectacular the image could be under ideal atmospheric conditions, or perhaps I now have a plan for the next power outage on a clear night.

 September 16, 2012  Editorial, Landscapes, Photography Tagged with: ,  13 Responses »