Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Cheap Lighting

I love to shoot birds and landscapes, but sometimes it's nice to work in a controlled lighting situation. It can be tedious to set up the subject and lights (lots of furniture to move around in my case), but very rewarding once you see what good lighting will do. Unfortunately, I can't afford a good set of studio lights yet :( so I improvise. The picture of the vases shown here was shot with compact flourescents and worklight reflectors I bought at Lowe's (next to my workplace at the time). I also don't have any light stands, so I made a few stick in a cans which I learned about from the prophotolife videos on youtube. So if you have the patience, you can shoot an everyday object and make a stunning image (these are just souvenirs from a long ago trip to Greece). Just keep in mind a few things:
  • Set the white balance manually. These bulbs all have listed color temperatures, but I keep seeing a nasty greenish tint. Setting the color balance will correct this.
  • Experiment with multiple bulb "temperatures". I lit the above scene and with a colder (higher K) bulb which I used as the white setting, then used a warmer bulb against the back wall to get the red-orange backdrop.
  • Be careful with reflective surfaces. Make sure you're not reflecting the camera, a light, or something else in the room unless that's your intention.
  • Be prepared to go through a lot of images afterwards. I like to make several modifications to the lighting setup and the shutter speed when I do an object shoot. That leaves me with a lot of very similar looking RAW files to look at later.
  • Be prepared to post process. For me the toughest situation is working with images with reflections. I use acrylic, which is cheap but picks up dust like you wouldn't believe. No matter how much I dust, I need to clean up the surface afterward I shoot.
  • A good tripod is strongly recommended. Although I actually managed to shoot this with my monopod (I don't recommend it).
There's a ton of great information on lighting setups, post processing, and more on youtube, but nothing was more useful to me than prophotolife episode 2.

You can find product designs based on my vase shots and other object photos in my zazzle store. If you have a product in mind but don't see it, just leave a message on the store wall or product page and maybe I'll design it for you!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Another test post


Pelican Fever - catch it!

20090712_3122_r0Here in the Bay Area we're blessed with 2 different types of Pelicans (that I know of), American White Pelican, Pelecanus erythrorhynchos, and Brown Pelican, Pelecanus occidentalis. Both are a joy to photograph.

The whites take long leisurely flights, usually in formation. They feed from the surface of the water like ducks. The browns on the other hand take shorter flights, are usually solo, and feed by dive bombing the water.

20091225_0744_r0Both produce stunning images when photographed in good light, low ISO, and at the right speed (somewhere between 1/1000" and 1/2000" for a good motion freeze). The whites are more predictable, but the browns give you a variety of coloring according to age and breeding.

I hope you can find one of your own, and happy shooting!

You can find product designs based on pelicans and other birds in my zazzle store. If you have a product in mind but don't see it, just hit the Contact Me! link on the front page and maybe I'll design it for you!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Lucky lucky me

I hate getting up before noon, but I love to shoot the sunrise, and get birds in the early morning light.

I decided to drag myself out of bed and go to the park. The weather report said it was supposed to be a clear day, but the visibility was minimal on the drive in.

I got to the park about 45 minutes before dawn and noticed that the skies were mostly clear, but there was a thick layer of fog. I don't think I've ever seen that before.

On the way to my "real" sunrise spot I passed by the lake, and saw this. Wow!

I set up my tripod and took a few shots. I took the shot above at ISO 100, f/11, 3.2". I rambled around the park looking for the best spot, when I should have stayed by the lake. Still, I got 9 or 10 really interesting images.

I put these images on posters, mousepads, postcards, and maybe more in my zazzle store.