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Featured Photography

Lensbaby Fisheye Optic

A long time ago, in a world that only used film, a lens was developed to see the whole sky. Cloud studies for meteorological use prompted the invention of the fisheye lens. It wasn’t long until the keen eye of the “art” photographer saw one and decided to use it to make images that could not otherwise be made. Fisheye images aren’t like rectilinear images, where straight lines mostly stay straight… fisheye lenses give you a convex rendering with curved straight lines, and encompass a huge area into a single image. Imagine if you will the end of a dog’s nose about six inches from the front of the lens… yep, you’ve seen photos with fisheye lenses before.

There are two basic types of fisheye lenses, circular and full-frame. The full-frame lens covers the full 35mm or FX sensor size frame with image – no cut-off corners. The circular fisheye is designed to project a circular image slightly smaller than the height of a 35mm or FX sensor, with vignetted corners. The second type is now available for your Lensbaby Composer (or any of the other Lensbaby models that accept the optic swap system with a special adapter).

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Featured Gadgets Photography

Digital Camera Infrared Conversion- Part 2

I recently wrote about my newly converted Nikon D200 body. I have since been on a trip to Acapulco, Mexico, and have shot over 1,500 images with the new body. Here are my impressions so far.

First, this conversion by Isaac Szabo uses an excellent filter (the infrared filter replaces the high-pass filter over the sensor inside the camera). The infrared images are wonderful, far better than any I got with my previously converted SLR. There is more color in evident in some of the images. With Isaac’s provided Photoshop action, the red and blue channels are swapped making very interesting images that retain the infrared look, but with more conventional looking skies in many cases. The action also has provided an excellent black and white conversion as well, you just have to activate the layer.

Skin tones are rendered very nicely. I shot a lot of candid portraits that look great. I shot most of my images at ISO 200 and got hand-holdable exposures, where I almost always had to shoot at ISO 500 to ISO 800 on my old conversion. The D200 has great characteristics to start with, and its current price point on the used market makes it a perfect infrared conversion choice… 10 megapixels makes a great 13×19 or larger print!

I recommend Isaac’s conversion… look at my images, and the images on his website. Then, decide which camera you want to convert, and start making infrared images!

[slidepress gallery=’infrared-sm’]




Want to see these images bigger?  Click here. Its worth the bandwidth…

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Multimedia Tutorials

Photographs by Britt Stokes

These Files sizes are large. Please be patient.

Taken in 2010 with The Infrared Conversion Digital Camera


[slidepress gallery=’mexican-infrared’]

Categories
Featured Gadgets Photography

Digital Camera Infrared Conversion

Since the 1930’s, photographers have enjoyed the use of infrared films for both scientific and pictorial use. The infrared spectrum is beyond the ability of the human eye to see, and objects viewed in light from the infrared spectrum often look quite different from visible light. Most living foliage will appear light or white in a final print shot with infrared film, and human skin can be almost translucent, with veins showing through the skin like magic. But with the advent of digital capture, most infrared emulsions have been discontinued. I know of only one infrared emulsion easily available now.

An initially unintended consequence of the digital photography revolution was that many digital sensors were very sensitive to infrared, to the point manufacturers put a filter over the sensor to block infrared light. With that filter removed and an infrared-passing filter put in its place, a new world was opened to digital photographers.

One of the main problems with doing infrared film photography was that there was no way to meter the level of infrared in a given scene. Exposure was a series of trials and errors (mostly errors for me). Many photographers bracketed exposures heavily, over and under exposing frames around what they thought was the proper exposure. There were a lot of other problems with infrared film that just made it difficult to work with. Handling was only in total darkness, the film was very heat sensitive, and it was very easy to fog the film.

I first became aware of digital infrared around the year 2000, at a workshop on Photoshop. The lecturer displayed a few images in their presentation that had been shot with a Minolta DiMage 7 camera. I was intrigued. I immediately bought a DiMage 7 and a deep infrared filter, and started on the road to digital infrared. One thing that immediately struck me was that I could see the infrared image – no more guessing if I got the exposure right. No more shooting six stop brackets to insure a good exposure. No more wondering how the scene will look – if the model’s clothing will render the way the eye sees it or not. Wow!

Fast forward 10 years. I’ve been shooting a converted Nikon D100 for over 5 years now. I had a showing in 2008 of my infrared work at Angelina College. The infrared world has been very good… but now, I wanted more. More megapixels, and with the now greater selection of infrared filters available for camera conversions, greater variance on infrared vs. visible light captured, and more color.

Yep, color. The only way previous to digital to do color, or “false color” infrared, was to shoot one of Kodak’s emulsions like Kodak EIR Ektachrome Infrared. Green plants turn shades of red, and Caucasian skin tones turn shades of yellow. Images with this film were stunning… but you still had the problems of difficulty in handling and exposure. With the current crop of sensors and filters, some rendering of color is found in the images captured.

I recently had a second camera converted to infrared by Isaac Szabo, a Fayetteville, Arkansas photographer (http://www.isaacszabophotography.com/). Isaac shoots a wide variety of photographic subjects, and does all of them well. His infrared work is great. I found him while doing an eBay search for “infrared conversion” – I was pleasantly surprised to see his price for a conversion. So after thinking about it for a few moments, I clicked “buy it now” and shipped Isaac my Nikon D200 body.

Not only did the camera get converted, but Isaac set the focus for the lens I supplied with the body. Infrared light focuses at a slightly different distance from the lens than visible light, so this can make some real difference.

My D200 came back converted in about 10 days. I opened the package and immediately shot an image through the window of my office. I was pleasantly surprised to find that at ISO 100, I was able to get a hand-holdable shutter speed. Surprised because my converted D100 would have had to be on ISO 400 or ISO 800 to get the same image. I took the camera to lunch that day (it didn’t eat much…) and shot a palm tree in front of a restaurant… and was again pleasantly surprised. There were shades of color in the obviously infrared image. Back at the studio, I opened the image in Photoshop, and ran Isaac’s action (I forgot to mention that Isaac provides this action and instructions to customers who purchase a conversion) to switch the red and blue channels. The result was stunning… blue sky in an infrared image.

If this sounds like it is for you, check out eBay… do a search for “infrared conversion” and look for the infrared photo of the lone tree  – the auction will be titled “Infrared IR Conversion Service for Digital Cameras” and is currently priced at $200.  (or click on the image of the ebay listing)

And, look for a follow-up article in a few weeks – I plan on shooting my newly converted D200 heavily on an upcoming trip to Mexico.

Categories
Featured Gadgets Hardware Photography Reviews

Lensbaby Composer: A Selective Focus SLR Camera Lens (pt 3)

A Three Part Series  Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3

Pt. 3 of 3: Be My Lens, Baby…always

Another improvement over my Lensbaby 2.0 is the lens cap – the 2.0 shipped with a nice, heavy solid metal lens cap that screwed in place… unfortunately, it was kind of slippery and difficult to get off sometimes. The Composer ships with a new squeeze-type lens cap (the style that lets your fingers get inside a lens hood, hmm, what a handy accessory that would be?). Easy on and easy off, but not so easy that you can lose it. In fact, the lens cap is flush with the front of the lens only when focused at the closest possible distance, so the style of the lens cap has something to do with getting the cap on and off when the lens is focused at a further distance and the front element is recessed into the front of the lens housing. The size is compact, about the same physical length as my Nikkor 50mm lens.

The Composer I received fit nicely on my Nikon, but you can also order Canon EF, Sony Alpha / Minolta Maxxum, Pentax K or Olympus 4/3. That covers most of the current digital SLR’s… of course, you could mount the Nikon version on your trusty Nikon F from 1965, and mount the Canon version on any autofocus Canon body ever made, including those that shoot (shudder), film. Pentax K mount may have had more bodies and lenses manufactured for it than all others combined. On my Nikon D3, I found that the website is essentially correct in that you need to shoot in manual mode and check your exposure via the histogram. I found it easy to get my exposure set for a scene, and then I set the bracketing to 3 shots (first exposure normal, 2nd exposure one stop underexposed, and the 3rd exposure is one stop overexposed). Most of the time, the normal or one stop underexposed produced the best images.

The first weekend I had the Composer, I visited my mother and grandmother. I got my mom interested in photography in the early 1980’s, and she has shot Nikon film bodies for 25 years now. At my gentle prodding, this year she upgraded to a Nikon D200, which she is never without. I showed her the Composer, and let her put it on her body… I almost didn’t get it back. I had to promise to order her one that very night to get it off her camera.

My shooting was sporadic over the time I had the Composer, but I did get to try it on a variety of subjects. Things, landscapes, people. I shot over 1,000 images with the lens… in other words, I barely scratched the creative surface. Having used many of the possible configurations, I have a starting suggestion for you: start with the Composer. It is not a huge investment by the standards of lenses made by camera manufacturers. Please check the Lensbaby website for current pricing at   http://www.Lensbaby.com/shop/ — there are some special pricing options there if you buy the Composer and Optic Kit and/or Accessory Kit at the same time. All told, you can get the entire system for the Composer and all the optics and accessories for well under $500.

A new feature I noticed as this article goes to press is the photo gallery on the Lensbaby website. There are many images to view with captions to tell you which lens optic made the image  http://www.lensbaby.com/gallery-photo.php . Every time you refresh the page, new images come up.


But Britt, surely there has to be something not perfect with the Lensbaby? Are you selling out? Well, no, I am not selling out. There are a couple of picky little things. When Craig Strong first developed the Lensbaby, my understanding is that he did it to fill a niche for his digital SLR. When he was first doing this, there weren’t too many full-frame digital SLR’s in the world. Certainly, I didn’t have one. So my original Lensbaby 2.0 looked and felt like a 75mm lens on my Nikon D2X (still half the focal length of the Sima, which translated to a 150mm). Now I have the D3… with the Composer (I have not tested the Muse or Control Freak), it is possible to skew the image to the point of cutting off or vignetting the image circle. Once I saw this and realized what was happening, it was no big deal. There is plenty of movement available without vignetting. I didn’t see vignetting with the D200 or D2X, which are both 2/3 frame sensors. Second, I wish the directions for removing and replacing lens elements were a little more detailed. Maybe I’m just not too bright. Are either of my minor gripes deal breakers? Not even close. One accessory I would like to see is a lens hood made to screw into the lens threads, although it would be funny shaped or maybe not possible because of the way the lens optic group moves into the body as you focus to infinity.

So, the bottom-line? Get one. I didn’t test the Muse, but it is essentially the Lensbaby 2.0 upgraded to use the interchangeable optics. In my opinion the Muse is best for fast, on-the-go photography.  Or, step up to the Composer (my recommendation). To me this is the most versatile lens in the series. If you shoot little toy soldiers in dioramas or architectural elements and want the ultimate in precision control, go for the Control Freak. Get more detail on all of these lenses and accessories at  http://www.Lensbaby.com/ . Any prices noted are current as of the time this article goes to the webmistress, but check the website for current pricing and availability… the Composer is currently in stock and shipping in about 3 weeks. The one that I ordered for my mom arrived in about four weeks, which was early by two weeks of the estimated shipping time on the website at the time it was ordered.

Lens Baby SLR Lenses

$150-270

Free Shipping Via USPS

For more information or to purchase, visit

www.lensbaby.com

The Lens Baby Composer – A Selective Focus SLR Camera Lens : A Review in 3 Parts

Part 1 |   Part 2 |   Part 3

Categories
Featured Gadgets Hardware Photography Reviews

Lensbaby Composer: Selective Focus SLR Camera Lens (pt 2)

A Three Part Series Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3

Pt. 2 of 3:  Be My Lens, Baby…again

Remember our fun with the Sima? The Lensbaby Composer (and all the Lensbaby line, since they use interchangeable elements) is 50mm in focal length compared with the Sima’s 100mm. That gets into the usable range for many landscape opportunities, and makes a decent average focal length for portraits and details. Need wider? They can do that… it’s that system concept I love so much. Offered as additional accessories are a 0.6x Wide Angle lens adapter and a 1.6x Telephoto lens adapter (in a set). That makes the 50mm equate to a 30mm or a 80mm lens via the front-threaded lenses. Yep, there is a macro kit as well, which would be really handy for those of us who shoot close details of things.

Instead of being happy with f/2, f/4 and f/5.6 with the Sima lens, we can now get down to f/22. Why would you want to shoot a “soft focus” image at f/22? Well, what the Sima didn’t do was skew the plane of focus… the Lensbaby skews the “sweet spot” of focus to the point you choose. Want the whole left side of the image to go completely out of focus? We can do that.



When the folks at Lensbaby shipped me the demo unit, I was very excited to open the box and find (first) a Lensbaby Composer (yes!) and a thoughtfully included set of lens elements. The Composer shipped with the double glass element in it, with the f/4 aperture. That seemed like a good starting point, so for the first several hundred shots I did with it, I left this configuration in place.

As I first handled the Composer, I was satisfied with the obvious build quality… it isn’t heavy, but feels solid. It is made of metal and composite materials, with a metal lens mount. The lens has a locking collar at the rear – if you want to lock the lens in position, simply turn the locking collar to lock it in place… since the lens doesn’t move easily on its own, I would think that most people would use the locking ring when on a tripod. Inside the lens optic, there is a magnetic arrangement that holds the f/stop apertures in place. With a little practice it is easy to drop the f/stop aperture in to the front of the lens, but if you have trouble, you can always use the handy magnetic tool provided for the task.

As previously noted, the Composer does away with the hard but flexible rubber bellows of the Lensbaby and Lensbaby 2.0. A composite ball-and-socket allows the front of the lens to move independently of the rear, creating changes in the plane of focus that the lens throws. This shifting of the plane of focus is what gives the Lensbaby its signature look.

Examples- Pt. 2


Lens Baby SLR Lenses

$150-270
Free Shipping Via USPS
For more information or to purchase, visit
www.lensbaby.com

The Lens Baby Composer – A Selective Focus SLR Camera Lens: a 3-part series

Part 1 |   Part 2 |   Part 3

Categories
Featured Hardware Photography Reviews

Lensbaby Composer: A Selective Focus SLR Camera Lens (pt 1)

A Three Part Series Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3

Pt. 1 of 3:  Be My Lens, Baby!

Soon after receiving my first 35mm camera, I found that photography was a little more difficult than it had first looked. Ok, it was a lot more difficult. After mastering the learning curve on how make a sharp, well-exposed photo, I saw some photography by David Hamilton and Robert Farber. I was back to square one. Suddenly, I wanted to shoot soft focus images. But, how to do it?

Shortly after graduating college, I got my first dedicated soft focus lens. I had tried all different ways of getting that beautiful soft focus look… shooting through cigarette package cellophane, smearing petroleum jelly on the filter, shooting through other materials like hose, netting, window screen, almost anything you can think of. Then came the Sima soft focus lens… 100mm at f/2 wide open, a simple single lens plastic element, push and pull focusing, it made beautiful images. It worked great… as long as you had your subject perfectly centered. The lens was sharper in the center than at the edges, so if you put your subject off center it would suffer degradation beyond the intent of soft focus. You could manipulate it slightly with an f/4 and an f/5.6 disk, plus there was a neutral density disk in the box that I never really used. The other limitation I immediately realized was the focal length; it was too long to use for most landscape situations. I moved on and tried other specialty lenses, mostly with less success than the Sima.

Then something wonderful happened… a guy like me who liked soft focus made a lens with an integral hard rubber-ish bellows to focus and bend all over the place to skew the plane of focus. Let me be clear – I experimented but never really built anything. I was content to use what others had made before me. Not so for photographer Craig Strong. He too had been unhappy with the soft focus options available to him, so he decided to do something about it, and the first Lensbaby was born. That was 2004; I found it in 2005 at PhotoExpo in New York City… when I saw the booth I went in and bought a Lensbaby 2.0.

The Lensbaby 2.0 creates beautiful images, but it has limitations for me. First, if I wanted to shoot a bracketed exposure, sometimes I found it difficult to hold the lens exactly on the focus point with the skew for a 3 or 5 shot bracket. I also had some difficulty focusing and bending the lens exactly the right way to throw the focus off a certain way. Using it on a tripod gave similar results. Forget trying to do a perfect long bracket for rendering an HDR scene… the original and version 2.0 Lensbabies were great for quick, on the move photography, but not for more studied compositions.

Jump forward to 2008. Apparently nobody mentioned to Craig Strong that he had created a great product and that he should rest on his laurels. He continued to improve the Lensbaby design, and introduced the new Lensbaby Composer. Instead of a bellows, it has a rotating ball-n-socket joint. Focus is achieved in a much more conventional fashion (to us old-school folks who were already used to focusing the lens themselves) with a rotating collar that moves the element assembly closer or farther from the sensor plane. But lo and behold, this wasn’t just an improvement on a single lens… the Lensbaby Composer had crossed over to… the system side. I remember one of the early literature pieces I saw from Nikon – it was titled the “Nikon System”. Need a right angle viewer that magnifies? Got it. How about a high-point action/sports finder? Ditto. Motor drive with 250-exposure cassette (yeah, film was somewhat precious, but what was really precious was time… like the time spent reloading your camera while the shot gets away). They can do that. Not to mention little things like the Noct Nikkor (look it up if you don’t know).

The Lensbaby and Lensbaby 2.0 had some attachments, but weren’t what I would call a system. The Lensbaby Optic Swap System is the heart of a new system of lenses that cover the spectrum of soft focus possibilities. Start with the sharpest, a double element glass lens. Second, a single glass element, followed by a single plastic element (if you have experience with a Diana or Holga, you’ll know this look). Apertures… we have apertures! Wide open the Composer is pretty soft with any of the lens optics. In the compact storage case/aperture tool housing (Lensbaby calls this the “Magnetic Aperture Set” and is included in with your first Lensbaby), you will find apertures from f/2.8 to f/22. If you are looking for f/4 in there, it is probably already in the lens. Finally, there is a fourth (and fifth?) element that thoughtfully combines a pinhole and zone plate in one housing. But wait… there’s more! All of these lens elements fit neatly into the newly redesigned Lensbaby Muse (replacing the Lensbaby original and 2.0 lenses), Control Freak (if precision soft focus, which seems something of an oxymoron, is your gig, this is the lens for you), and the Composer.

Ok, let’s do our math now. 5 lens types (double glass, single glass, plastic, zone plate and pinhole), 9 possible apertures including those in the creative aperture kit (without making your own), wide angle and telephoto converters, macro close-up kit… Without creating your own apertures from the blanks in the creative kit, there are well over one hundred different possible system configurations. Of course, you can also get there 3 different ways – the Muse, Composer or Control Freak. For those artsy readers that aren’t system oriented, don’t be alarmed… on the Lensbaby website you can preview the effects of many of the combinations… just browse to  http://www.Lensbaby.com/optic-comparison.php and use your mouse to create the combinations. This handy preview tool will get you started toward the look you desire.

Examples

Lens Baby SLR Lenses

$150-270

Free Shipping Via USPS

For more information or to purchase, visit

www.lensbaby.com

The Lens Baby Composer – A Selective Focus SLR Camera Lens : A Review in 3 Parts

Part 1 |   Part 2 |   Part 3

Categories
Featured Gadgets Media The Write Stuff

Lost Your Camera? Did You Look On The Internet?

In 1977 while hanging out with some friends in Philly, I inadvertantly left my camera at an outdoor lunch joint near Second and South. Having shared a few bottles of Merlot (to wash down the double cheese steaks with onions and mushrooms) I hadn’t realized the camera was missing until later in the evening and by then, I figured I was out of luck. In those days, there was no craigslist on which to post lost & found, and I had no idea of the name of the place where we’d eaten lunch (see Merlot ref. above) so I couldn’t call them to find out if it was there.

That was then. The camera is history and as time goes on, the memories become soft and faded like an old pair of jeans. Fast forward thirty some years – timing is everything. What you lose today, has a good chance of showing up tomorrow, thanks to the internet and a few good people who still believe in reaching out.

In the summer of 2008 while hiking in New Hampshire, a man named Matt found a camera at the bottom of a river. The camera was completely rusted out and worthless. A kind and curious dude, Matt took the camera home and fiddled with it until he was able to retrieve the memory card from which, after a little more fiddling, he was able to extract over two hundred photos and movie clips.

Taking it one step further, he set up a blog (http://basinfoundcamera.blogspot.com/ ) and posted some of the photos there with hope that the owner of the camera would see them and he could reunite the two. Eight days later, that’s exactly what happened, giving rise to a great new site, aptly called: iFoundYourCamera. (http://ifoundyourcamera.blogspot.com )

Every Thursday the website is updated with photos sent in by people who have found cameras. Those who have lost a camera can browse through the photos and see if they belong to them. The two are then reunited.

The internet provides us with great opportunity, but people and ideas are what bring it to life. For those who look to reach out and perhaps further the greater good, even if it’s only one camera at a time, there is no chasm that can’t be crossed. All you have to do is picture it.

Categories
Gadgets Hardware Photography Reviews Workflow

Ray Flash: The Ring Flash Adapter

Ray Flash, a portable ring light for your Canon or Nikon DSLR camera system

Tonight I was making whipped cream for my wife’s dessert. It brought back fond memories of my mother making whipped cream, usually at Thanksgiving or Christmas, and I almost always got to lick a beater from the mixer. That was worth running from anywhere in the house – getting a beater with the thick, sweet whipped cream on it. Ah, those were the days. That is, until now.

A few weeks ago I got a box in the mail… the box was bigger than the hand mixer my mother used, but what it contained was sweeter than whipped cream. It was the Ray Flash attachment for my Nikon SB-800 flash unit, designed to transform an ordinary flash into a ring flash. This model was specifically for my D2X or D3, although it would also work on my old D1X. Ha… Christmas came early this year. And, I didn’t have to fight my brother for it.

Ring flash has an almost mystical following in the fashion and photography world. Ring lights are generally expensive, heavy, dedicated units that fit one manufacturer’s brand of flash pack. They can be very cumbersome to use hand-held. Oh, but that light… the wrap-around quality of shadow-less light is hard to create with any other equipment. The light produces a crisp catch-light in the model’s eye, with very even illumination and quick falloff.  The light that you can now, with your existing equipment, mount on your Nikon or Canon camera!

Imagine if you will a ring light that mounts directly to your camera mounted flash unit, and redirects the light into a perfect circle of light surrounding your lens.  Now imagine that it works totally TTL (through the lens metering with your camera’s exposure system)… finally imagine that it only costs about $300, not closer to $1,000 or more. OK, quit dreaming… it is here, in a real product that you can use now.

Let’s look at what you get in the box. First, you find the ring flash itself, with a head specifically designed for your model of flash (Nikon SB-800 or Canon 580EX). The ring slides on over the lens and the head cover slides onto the head of your flash and with a quick twist of a knob on top, locks securely to your flash. Second you will find a small Ziploc bag of shims… the shims are provided for the head if your flash head tends to droop under the weight. Finally, a short instruction manual. Do you need the manual? Probably not, but it is nice to have.

So far I have shot with two lenses, the Nikkor 24-120 AF VR and the Nikkor 50mm f/1.4 AF. I shot the 24-120 without the lens hood, as it stuck a couple of inches in front of the ring light. I kept the lens hood on the 50mm, as it was much shorter. Here is what I found… first, on the 24-120, it isn’t easy to zoom… the zoom ring is pretty close to the body of the ring light. It is possible with nimble fingers, and I think it could be learned with a little practice. The 50mm had no such problems. I think an ideal lens is my 85mm f/1.8, although I have currently loaned it out to a friend.

So, what do I like about the Ray Flash? Well, for what you are getting, it is relatively lightweight. It stays easily mounted to the camera, and doesn’t get in the way of the camera straps or camera controls with a couple of exceptions… the controls that are a little blocked are the mirror lockup, autofocus mode selector switch, and lens mount button. With the 50mm, I could simply swing the whole assembly carefully up and make needed adjustments, but the 24-120 wasn’t quite as easy. All the exposures are TTL reliable, with all your adjustments being easily controlled from the back of the flash. You do have to use either TTL or manual flash modes, as the Auto mode won’t work… the photo receptor on the front of the flash body is blocked by the Ray Flash. I can’t remember the last time that I used Auto mode on a flash… probably more than 10 years at least. Want to turn vertical from horizontal? Well this is complicated… just turn the camera. Ha. No more rotating the head of the flash – it’s round!
Teen model Lindsay photographed with Nikon D3 with SB-800 and diffusion dome… note the telltale shadow on the wall. Surely we can do better for such a pretty girl.

 

Same location but photographed after removing the diffusion dome and installing the Ray Flash ring light on the SB-800.

I found several nice uses for the Ray Flash. First and most obvious, I had to find a pretty young lady to photograph for my testing. Lindsay was as easy to work with as the Ray Flash. First we did a test shot with my normal flash arrangement (turning the camera to portrait mode and rotating the SB-800 flash head to match). This usually works well, but if you have a wall or other object fairly close to the back of your subject, you will normally get a rather objectionable shadow on the side of your subject. Next I installed the Ray Flash, and shot the same photo – presto, magico… the shadow went away, and Lindsay’s face was beautifully and evenly illuminated. We shot at a couple of locations, both in open shade and then the lowering gloom of a late fall post-sunset evening. The shots turned out great. I played with the adjustment on the flash to get the illumination level correct with the changing ambient light.

Lindsay posing about four feet from the turquoise garage door… this shot was in open shade just as the sun was going down.

Did somebody say wireless? Commander Ray, front and center! Yes, the Ray Flash works with the Nikon wireless TTL system – program your other SB wireless compatible lights as slaves, set the one on your camera as master, and prepare to make some really funky cool photos. As long as the photo eyes on the side of the slaves can see the ring flash go off, you should be in business.

Lindsay posing about four feet from the turquoise garage door- this shot was in open shade just as the sun was going down.

Another nice use is fill flash on close-up subjects, like flowers. I even did a shot of a couple of my trusty, if dusty, F2 to see what it looked like – worked just fine. I set up a second SB-800 as a background light to make it interesting.

Until I looked at this shot in Photoshop’s Camera Raw  module, I had not realized how really dusty my trusty  F2 camera is. Another use for the RayFlash is shooting  quick photo illustrations like this one to use for online  auctions. This was shot with the RayFlash mounted on  my SB-800 plus 1-2/3 stops with a Nikkor 60mm  Micro lens. In the full-sized version of this photo you  can see every glorious scratch and dent of this 1972  camera.

Ok Britt, you say, there has to be some kind of downside, some trade off with the Ray Flash. Well, there is – the Ray Flash is only as powerful as the flash you mount it on.  An SB-800 has a guide number high enough to be very useful, but you do lose some light in the Ray Flash. On the D3, that is not a big deal – just go up from ISO 200 to ISO 400 and shoot away.  (I found my best results for portraits were shots done within about 8 to 10 feet of the subject. For exact information, refer to chart on the Ray Flash page at  HYPERLINK "http://www.expoimaging.com" www.expoimaging.com.) It is somewhat bulky, and does block some camera controls, but no more than any other ring flash I have seen short of the small macro photo ring flashes that Nikon makes. And to be fair, the $300 price is a little steep for some people, but let’s be completely fair and say that the ring light attachment for my studio strobes costs about $1,400 and you have to lug a $3,000 pack with you that weighs 25 pounds. Oh, don’t forget that you have to have AC power or an expensive battery pack unit to actually use it. Is the studio strobe ring flash more powerful? Absolutely. Is it more convenient for fast-moving location work? Not a chance.
This shot is cropped to show the catch light in Lindsay's eye from the Ray Flash ring light. This is typical, although it seems that the further the subject is from the flash, the less defined the dark spot in the center of the catch light is. Love those freckles!

The bottom line is, if you shoot Nikon or Canon DSLR’s and want ring flash capability out in the real world, get a Ray Flash.

Oh, yeah… after I made the whipped cream, I got both beaters. What a day – playing with the Ray Flash and getting the beaters. Gotta e-mail my brother. He he he…

Ray Flash is imported to the United States by ExpoImaging, the same folks who bring us the ExpoDisc. It is available from select photo dealers or directly from ExpoImaging at  www.expoimaging.net or 1-800-446-5086. ExpoImaging stands behind their products and offers free telephone technical support from 9am to 5pm Pacific Time Monday through Friday.
 

Categories
Digital Lifestyles Media Photography

PhotoVoice

It is well established that if you give someone a fish, they’ll have dinner for one night. Teach someone to fish and they’ll have dinner for the rest of their life.

In 1998, Edinburgh University Social Anthropology students Tiffany Fairey and Anna Blackman established two projects which sought to integrate participatory photography into their MA dissertations. These projects, the Rose Class project in Nepal and the Street Vision project in Vietnam, encouraged and inspired refugees from these areas to capture their everyday lives on film, with cameras supplied by the two projects.

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Books Photography Reviews

PRACTICAL HDRI: High Dynamic Range Imaging For Photographers

Jack Howard should be a familiar name to many of you photographers as he is the Editor of PopPhoto.com/Popular Photography & Imaging where he tests and reviews cameras, lenses, software and a multitude of camera gadgets. 

HDRI photography (high dynamic range photography) is a growing phenomenon of interest in the photography field.  Simply put, it is a method by which the photographer produces an image that has more dynamic range than that which is possible with normal film or digital processes.  In extreme, it produces a surreal image; however, used judiciously it opens up the shadows and recovers highlight detail in an image.  Briefly, the process involves taking a series of images at varying exposures while keeping the f-stop and focus constant and varying only the shutter speeds.  This procedure produces a range of exposures that at some point expose correctly for the shadows but not the highlights, a “normal” exposure, and at another point exposures for detail in the highlights but not the shadows.  Once done, the selected software chooses the correct exposure for each area in the image and mixes the areas to produce an image that has a wider dynamic range than is possible with a single exposure. Finally, tone-mapping pulls the assorted areas back into a luminance range our eyes and our perceptions consider to be more normal.

Obviously, this normally involves using a tripod and having a stationary subject, as any movement between each exposure can only contribute to blurring and the failure of the image.  Surrealism is easily achieved in HDRI photography through a number of software and procedural choices.  Making the photograph look “right” with tone-mapping is where a discerning eye and more than a bit of art comes in.

Getting a new book from Rocky Nook Press is always a joy to me because of the high quality of the reproduction of images in their volumes.  As a photographer, the quality with which a book image is reproduced is extremely important to me.  First comes the quality of the original reproduction, and then I’m concerned with the lifespan of the paper it is printed on.  With these volumes printed on acid-free paper I am comforted by the thought that if I return to one of their publications in a year or three or more I can expect to see and handle pages and images that will be as fresh in reproduction as they were on my first look.

Jack Howard begins by explaining that on our regular computer screen or on the printed pages of a book, we cannot actually see the full scope of high dynamic range imaging.  Very few individuals possess the quality of computer screen to actually take advantage of the total product of HDRI; instead, we view a tone-mapped version that attempts to cram or compress all the brightness (luminance) into a smaller space that can be managed by either the screen or the printed image.

With that in mind he explains that even with the most basic DSLR equipment it is possible to do HDRI work.  Even basic DSLR’s have the manual capability to set exposure in such a way that the f-stop and focus can remain fixed while adjusting the shutter speed which provides the variables in the exposure range from under to over exposure of the subject.  Most point-and-shoot cameras lack this capability.  In addition, because the process of HDRI photography depends upon several images being in the same position or focus, then a tripod becomes a necessity, and bracketing burst capability in the DSLR a highly desirable function.

With the tools explained and in hand, he devotes a bit of time to the basics of photographic composition, and then discusses the best lens types for HDRI work.  Each lens type produces a distinct “look” to the photographic image and choosing that “look” can very well be part of the developing style of the photographer.

The subject of whether to shoot in RAW or .jpeg is covered. Each has it’s advantages and disadvantages, so the basic recommendation is that if the photographer’s camera has the capability, the basic images in the exposure bracket should be made with both simultaneously.  Metering for an HDRI bracket can be tricky and Jack Howard discusses the various methods of metering and the advantages and disadvantages of each type.

Download sites for a number of HDRI software programs are given, but the programs are not included as a CD with the book.  The reasoning is that based on the length of time it usually takes to produce a book, the software will have been revised during the production period.  Having the photographer download the software guarantees that the latest version is what the photographer works with.  A number of software types are mentioned and demonstrated. They include Photoshop CS3, Photomatix Pro 3.0, FDRTools Advanced 2.2, and Dynamic Photo HDR 3.x.  Not all of these are available in both Mac and PC versions, so the appropriate software should be chosen to match the photographer’s computer platform.

Once the photographer has created an HDRI version of their selected image, then tone-mapping should be applied to their product.  This is necessary to make it possible to handle the image with conventional viewing and printing media because the image will otherwise have problems with over-saturation, hyper-vividness, and out-of-gamut warnings.

Of particular interest to me were the set-up procedures for Photoshop, Bridge, and Adobe Camera Raw as the easiest methods for correcting tone-mapped images that have an initial flat appearance and lack either a real black point starting or white point ending.  This legitimatized the process I had worked out for myself while using an earlier version of PhotoMatix Pro while previously experimenting with HDRI photography.  It also encouraged me to update my PhotoMatix Pro 2.4.1 to version 3.0.3.

If you are looking for a straightforward introduction to HDRI photography–and can do it without the necessity of a precise-step-by-step procedure where both you and the instructor have identical sets of variably exposed copies of the same image to work with–then Jack Howard’s book is an excellent choice. As an author, Jack Howard seldom applies an aesthetic judgmental qualification to the result of a decision you might make in the adjustments of the software.  Rather, his approach is that “if you do A, then B is going to happen, and that may or may not be what you want.”  He demonstrates HDRI techniques on a multitude of different images producing results from surreal to extended-normal.  He allows the photographer to decide which approaches best fit their philosophy of imaging. He encourages the photographer to experiment and to apply his or her own aesthetic judgment to the product.  This volume is 170 pages, well illustrated, beautifully printed, and is in paperback format; it is a good addition to the bookshelf of both the beginning and intermediate photographer.

 

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Books Photography Software Workflow

Digital Infrared Photography by Cyrill Harnischmacher

One of my colleagues is an architectural photographer who shoots digital infrared images a great deal of the time.  Unfortunately, he lives several hundred miles from me and when we are together (which actually is seldom) we spend our time talking about our lives and clients–and lately, hurricanes (since we both live in areas that are affected by storms).  That means that we don’t spend a lot of time talking about infrared photography, which I would really like to do.  For me, that’s unfortunate because I am actually very interested in the “look” of the infrared photograph, and years ago in my film days I actually spent some time experimenting with black and white infrared film and the appropriate filters.  So the theory is not unknown to me, but the practical aspects of digital infrared photography is very new to me.

But a new book crossed my desk.  It is Digital Infrared Photography by Cyrill Harnischmacher,published by Rocky Nook Press.

The author, (as I quote the book cover) is Cyrill Harnischmacher a photographer and designer who lives and works in southern Germany.  His first book, “lowbudgetshooting” won the prestigious Fotobuch-award of the German Booksellers Association in 2005.  He is a studio photographer by profession and a nature and infrared photographer by passion.

It has been my previous experience that picking up a book from Rocky Nook press is to experience a book-lovers joy.  Digital Infrared Photography is printed on acid-free paper and laid out with clean, uncluttered, linear design and printed with wonderful concern for the accuracy of color and the depth of the black and white illustrations, so it certainly does not disappoint.

While the volume is attractive enough to simply be a small coffee-table book; its content filled me in on the state of the art with modern digital cameras and had enough theory to refresh my memory and probably enough to satisfy the casual reader. Mr. Harnischmacher begins with the basic theory of infrared photography and then discusses the specialty cameras that make the process of digital infrared photography possible.

He introduces us to modified cameras that have had their infrared cut-off filters removed and to cameras like the Canon 20D and Fuji SLR S3Pro UVIR models which are specifically designed for areas such as scientific use by astrophotographers.

The clip filter system for the Canon EOS system cameras is quite interesting in that in selected EOS models (300D, 350D, 400D, 10D, 20D, and 30D) which have had their IR filters removed, a clip filter can be inserted into the camera body to enable the body to perform specific scientific functions.  The insert filters are manufactured by Astronomik (www.astronomik.com).

The Sigma SD14 camera is capable of infrared photography right out of the box but has some specialized problems of its own.

Astrophotography is a field with its unique problems, specialized equipment, and equally unique rewards if the reader is willing to commit to the learning experience.

The practical aspects of infrared photography are discussed through the introduction of While Balance, Exposure, and Settings.  This is followed by some very practical thoughts on Composing and Setting up shots.

Tabletop and Still Life photography as well as the use of an infrared lightbrush (suitable flashlight) can produce suitable images in infrared when patience and experimentation are utilized.  Macro photography and the suitable filters for infrared as well as using on board camera flash and external flash units are discussed briefly.

The Digital Darkroom is the key to the processing of digital infrared images because it is extremely seldom that digital infrared images do not require specialized post-processing.  Photoshop or similar processing software is needed. One of the techniques described in converting infrared into a black and white image is through the use of the LAB color space. Grayscale conversion via the channel mixer is also demonstrated.

I think the book examples for adjusting the color levels with gradient curves produce some of the richest and most striking images in the book.  The use of layers and layer masks, techniques that should be familiar to the usual Photoshop artist, are of real use for infrared photography. Partial Colorization with the Channel Mixer, Color Effects via the Channel Mixer, Channel Swap Variations, Colorization, Duotone Effects, and Soft Lens Effects round out the offerings.

A last page gives you access to the sources for information to modify digital cameras for infrared work, where to find infrared filter information, and the Clip filter system.

While almost any of these effects are worth prolonged study by the interested digital infrared photographer, the brief overview presented by Mr. Harnischmacher will get the viewer started and provide the basis for understanding the possibilities of these effects.  At 105 pages, it’s not a large book, but the information is good, the illustrations are rich and varied. This book is a nice addition to the photographers’ bookshelf and a good introduction to digital infrared photography.