Archive for September, 2008

Daily Photo – Texas Garage Event

These guys played on the pool deck of the new AMLI building in downtown Austin during SXSW (part of the Texas Garage Event in the parking garage of the structure).  There’s really not much difference between the original and the final, so let’s look more at the composition and lighting choices.


  • Shutter:  1/250
  • Aperture:  f/4.0
  • ISO:  400
  • Camera:  Canon EOS 1D Mark III
  • Lens:  Canon EF 14mm f/2.8L II USM
  • Lighting:  Canon 580EX II connected via off camera shoe and held in left hand.


Composition and Processing

  • Normally I’d try to shoot live music without a flash, but this stage was really really dark.  On camera flash would have been far too harsh, and there was no room to set up a strobe on a stand, nevermind any sort of umbrella or softbox to diffuse the light a bit.  Fortunately, the organizers of the event set up this giant white reflector over the stage (I imagine it also helped shade the stage during the day and protected them from rain too).  I used an off camera shoe cable to connect a 580EX flash to the camera, then held it in one hand above my head (pointed at the concave canopy) while I took the shot.  That distance was enough to keep the hard light off the musicians, while the light reflected off what was effectively a 10′ wide umbrella.
  • I wasn’t thrilled about the position of the band members in the photo, but my main interest was in trying to capture the angle of the bass as it bent away from the camera.  14mm is the widest lens I have, but I really should have used the 1Ds instead of the 1D to exagerate the effect more (the 1D has a 1.3x crop sensor, whereas the 1D is full frame.)  As it is, the bass doesn’t quite take over the shot like I want it to.

September 24 2008 | Photography | No Comments »

Daily Photo – Andrea

One of the very first studio lighting shoots I did was courtesy of Trey Ratcliff, and the setting was his office in downtown Austin. Another photographer and friend of his, Andrea, agreed to be the model for the afternoon.

Trey’s office had a nice brick wall on one side. The bricks themselves weren’t very interesting, but I figured they’d be perfect to try some texture experiments with later in Photoshop.


  • Shutter: 1/250
  • Aperture: f/11
  • ISO: 100
  • Camera: Canon EOS 1ds Mark III
  • Lens: Canon EF 85mm f/1.2L II USM
  • Lighting: One AB camera left in a 42″ umbrella; another camera right also in a 42″ umbrella (and further back, acting as fill).


Setup (from a similar shot, except the light positioning is reversed; that’s Trey shooting):

Composition and Processing

  • The background was processed on a separate layer. I didn’t actually apply a texture to it, just used some of the more funky effects from Nik Color Efx to generate the colors. I’ve said it before, but one of the big advantages of plug-ins like Nik is the ability to rapidly test a diverse set of effects, particularly if you’re not sure what you’re looking for. In this case I settled on something that fit the Andrea’s color tones (shirt/skin), while still providing some range in brick color relative to the original.
  • For Andrea, I used Nik’s Glamour filter, which gave her a a softer look (and a bit of a glow). It would have been easy to go overboard here, but since I’d increased the contrast on the background (to show off the texture more), making her too soft would have been noticeable to the eye. In the final result I think both are complimentary (i.e. the higher contrast background makes the softer subject stand out, but the texture of the wall also draws the eye a little relative to the subject).
  • I had some issues with the mask and getting an edge that worked well with the glamour filter. After a while I got impatient with it and moved on, but if you look closely (or maybe not so closely), you can see a minor halo on some parts of her.

September 16 2008 | Photography | 2 Comments »

Daily Photo – MC at Vicci

Every month or two a group of local photographers get together to shoot at an interesting venue in Austin. The emphasis is off camera flash techniques, and the group maintains a regular forum on flickr called, appropriately, Strobist Austin.

For the March gathering, 45 photographers descended on Vicci with five models in tow. Vicci has a fairly interesting and diverse interior, so we rotated groups of photographers and models around the site in an effort to keep everyone’s shots from being identical. Still, there’s only so much you can do with that many people (subsequent get togethers have had a better subject to shooter ratio).

I wasn’t too happy with this particular set up — the colors were all wrong, the outfit was weak and the background stunk. Michelle was a trooper though, and everyone did their best to make the most of it (did I mention the 4 or 5 strobes? Complete overkill). To be fair, these gatherings are supposed to be learning experiences, so the goal wasn’t necessarily to get a great shot as much as to deepen our knowledge of lighting.


  • Shutter: 1/125
  • Aperture: f/5.6
  • ISO: 100
  • Camera: Canon EOS 1ds Mark III
  • Lens: Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L USM
  • Lighting: 60″ softlighter camera right, SB800 camera right (further right than the softlighter and aimed more at the background), SB800 camera left as fill, plus one more strobe camera left and on background (I think, going mostly from memory on this and the fact three of the lights show up in the reflection from her eye).


Composition and Processing

  • We each had only a few minutes to shoot in each setup, so I thought up a few compositions in advance. There was a curtain hanging on the wall behind the couch she was sitting on (the couch you can’t see), and I thought we could do something interesting with it draped partly around her. Except that when we set the shot up I discovered it was tacked to the wall in a million places, allowing about as much movement as you see here. So I had her pull it as tight as she could, framing her face with the material on one side and her arms top/bottom.
  • I didn’t expect to crop so close afterward, but it really focused the attention on her face and, conveniently, got rid of most of the yellow dress. I often do off-center compostions like this, but I’d normally move it to the opposite corner (upper left) because her head is turned slightly down and to the (camera) right. Sometimes its better to go against your normal instincts.
  • I tried a number of other colors for the dress, but couldn’t find anything that matched the curtain better.
  • Her arms and face are blown out intentionally. I like that look when I use Nik’s bleach bypass effect. The original image was so monotone, it needed something, and the composition itself wasn’t strong enough to carry it otherwise. I do like the final color for the curtain, although that’s due as much to the bleach bypass effect as the color balance I did afterward to cool it off (lots of blue).

The rest of the Vicci shoot can be seen here.

September 14 2008 | Photography | No Comments »