Bike Details

It’s been a long while since I posted so I thought I’d start off with a quick behind the scenes photoshoot. Inspired by Scott Kelby and Tim Wallace’s photography of exotic and expensive sports cars, so I decided to give it a try myself. To begin with, I don’t own an exotic car, nor do I have access to one. And, I certainly can’t afford one myself. However, I knew I could use their lighting principles on any shiny object. So, I decided to shoot my daughters bike!

Click images to see larger.

I purchased the bike for my daughter as a gift many years ago. I don’t know how old she was, but I found the bike at a Toys Are Us  nearby.

As things go, my daughter never got into mountain biking, and the bike sat in the garage for years, hardly used.

After being inspired by Scott Kelby’s detailed photographs of an Acura sports car, and Tim Wallace’s amazing work and tutorials, I thought I’d try shooting the bike!

First, I had to clean the bike. It was filthy and it took several hours to scrub it clean.

I don’t own a studio, and my basement is tiny, but that’s where I setup the shoot because I wanted to control the ambient light and get it as dark as possible. My home is an old stone colonial, built in 1780, and is on the historic registry in New Jersey, so you can imagine how limited the space is in my basement.

The last photo above shows the strip bank in relationship to the bike. The modeling light helped me figure out the lighting, and  I moved the front wheel many times, to get the angle just right. I switched from a prime 24mm lens to a 24-70mm zoom and found it much better for getting in tight and composing.

Settings
Canon 5DIII
24-70mm f/2.8 L
24mm f/1.4 L
f/20 @ 1/100
Some shots were @ f/22
ISO 100, and auto white balance

Lighting
Einstein 640 @ approx. 1/3 power
10 x 26 Strip bank
Triggered with sync cord
Avenger A5043 Stand with extension boom

I hope to get the opportunity to do this again on an exotic car, or motorcycle. I love what some people have done to customize their Harley Davidson motorcycles, and I’d love to shoot one someday. It’s always fun using big studio strobes, and learning. I feel I can do better, but I’m pleased with these shots as start. I hope to do many more. 😉

Cheers,
Ivan

Virtual Machine

A new addition to our Smiles Are Free bag of tricks, courtesy of Mike Abshier, is a virtual background system. I was put in charge of the equipment, and asked to test it out. Being the skeptic I was doubtful this would work, and be a viable piece of equipment. Although I have to admit, I was intrigued with the concept.

How it works — you place a 2.25″ slide transparency in the machine and it projects the image onto a special screen. The lamp works like a strobe, so you never see the image until it’s exposed. There is a modeling lamp, but the only way to preview it through the lens. This allows you to alter a pose or reposition your model. The screen is about the same size as an 9′ backdrop. Your subjects stand a few feet in front of the screen. Miraculously, the background appears in your shot. There are some issues. Your strobes must be feathered away from the background. Any spill will wash out the background image.

Here’s the setup:

Virtual Background Machine
The setup is involved and requires a lot of calibration to align all of the components.

Test 2, I finally got the image to appear. And yes, this has got to be the ugliest room I’ve ever seen.:

Test 2
Test shot of a projected “virtual background” scene

Test 3, with me in the scene. One beauty dish with strobe, on low power. f/4 at 1/160, ISO 100.

Moi Boudoir
Ok, I know, I could have at least smiled for the picture! :-}

Here’s my quick review:
The system works. Do I love it? Uh, not so much. Does it have possiblities? It might. I don’t like locking my camera into a machine that can’t move easily. This can be solved with more expense, but you are still limited in movement. I’m not a tripod shooter when I do portraiture. I like to move around and be spontaneous. This system locks you in. The backgrounds they offer are cheesy-wiz schmaltzy. It comes with about 22 backgrounds. You can buy more and they sell hundreds, or you can shoot your own film. This opens up some possibilities. I’ll shoot some more and post soon. There may be one or two they provided that might have some merit, but most of them I don’t like very much.

It’s a very controlled system. Your lighting needs to be spot on and gelled to match the lighting in the projected image, otherwise, you look cut-and-pasted into the scene, as I do in the un-gelled example above. This takes some doing and a lot of experimentation.

Portability – the screen weighs a ton. It’s actually two screens, sandwiched together. A silvery backing and black mesh in front. It rolls up into it’s own holder and mounts to standard background stands. The projector mounts to heavy gear-head tripod. This thing also weighs a ton and has a fragile glass – beam-splitter mounted to it. It will need to be broken down and packed in an optional hard case, to be portable. It’s a big deal to move it, set it up and transport. Not very practical.

If you are looking for a way to minimize Photoshop collage work (I happen to love Photoshop colgaging!), and like the idea of instantly changing a background scene, and providing a customer a quick, on-the-spot instant photo, there is a business model here. It reminds me of a mall photo studio where moms bring their babies. Ugh. In reality, you could actually make a business out of this thing. Is it creative? it could be, if you shoot your own backgrounds, have a wardrobe of accessories, makeup artists, costumes… whatever. Will I use it? Hmmmmm. For Smiles Are Free…, I might, since we now own it. For my own work or anything else… no.

CAVEAT:
THESE ARE TEST SHOTS ONLY and NOT indicative of my photography, creativity or skill. The background scene of a velour couch in the ugliest room I’ve ever seen, came with the system. It is absolutely awful. The shot is tilted…because i’m still figuring out how to align… and the color is off… no correction gels were used yet.

Check back again for more test shots.

Cheers,
Ivan

Canon 7D firmware upgrade

Canon’s EOS 7D firmware v2 upgrade.

The release will be coming in August. Here’s the list of new features:

• Improved maximum burst for RAW images (up to 25)
• In-camera RAW image editing
• In-camera Image Rating
• In-camera JPEG resizing
• Maximum Auto ISO setting (ISO 400-6400)
• Manual audio level adjustment in movie recording
• GPS compatibility
• File name customization
• Time zone settings
• Faster scrolling of magnified images
• Quick control screen during playback

Here’ my take:
Great! Having new functionality added by way of firmware is always welcome.

However, they missed the mark. It would have been easy (i think) to add more Auto Exposure Bracketing stops, extending the current limitation. Nikon’s D4 can shoot up to 9, with 1/3, 1/2 or 1 stop increments.

I want this for HDR photography. Doing so manually is a pain, and can’t be done as quickly as an automated mode.

As for the other features, I find most of them will be useless to me.

• I don’t need in-camera RAW image editing. All my editing is done using Lightroom or Photoshop.
• I don’t need to re-name files in camera.
• Manual audio level adjustment – Nice, if you shoot video and need it, but most people I know that shoot video, use a separate recording device and sync it in post. So, this is nice, but not a necessity.
• Time Zone settings – should have been there in before, so nice to finally have it for travelling.
• GPS compatibity – nice, but not a necessity.
• Faster scrolling of magnified images – was never an issue for me before.
• Quick control screen during playback – I never found not having this to be an issue before.
• Still no voice memo! At 8 frames per second in continuous shooting mode and with it’s fast focus tracking, this is a sports shooters camera. The need to record a voice memo for an important sports play, would’ve been nice. Why they left this out is beyond me.

This is supposed to be a significant upgrade. Canon will certainly sell more GPS units, but for the average user like myself, this upgrade falls short of what I really wanted.

More details on the Canon Rumors website.

Canon’s new flagship! Canon EOS-1D X

Just announced this morning, October 18, 2011, Canon announced their new flagship DSLR, the EOS-1D X. Based on rumors, I new there would be a new hi-end DSLR announcement today, and this one did not disappoint.

I’ve been hoping that Canon would finally step up with a body that can compete with Nikon’s amazing D3 and D3x. If the image quality and performance lives up to the specifications, I think we’ll have a phenomenal camera. It comes at a steep price of $6,800, but for many, such as sports and photojournalists, it will be well worth the expense. For the rest of us, we’ll have to wait and see what happens in 2012 for the more affordable highly anticipated camera as the 5D Mark III or whatever they plan on naming it. My guess… it’ll have a lot of megapixels (39?) to compete with Nikon’s soon-to-be announced D800. So for those hoping for medium format-amount of megapixels, Nikon will have a solution, and I think Canon will to! It’s a great time to enjoy being a photographer. The technological advances are amazing..

Specs:
Magnesium body, with integrated vertical grip and battery compartment
18 megapixels, Full Frame 35mm Sensor
(2) Digic 5+ processors (17x faster then Digic 4s)
(1) Digic 4 processor dedicated for metering sensor and AF
100 – 51,200 ISO Range
ISO expansion 50 – 204,800 (wow!)
Carbon Fiber Shutter (rated 400,000 lifespan)
12 FPS continuous shooting
14 FPS continuous, with mirror lockup and JPEG only
X-Sync speed of 1/250
Twin CF Card Slots
Ethernet 1,000 Base-T port
100% Viewfinder – electronic overlay of AF points, level
Optional GPS Receiver and Wirless File Transmitter
Improvements to ergonomics – buttons and dials repeated for vertical grip and placed in easy reach of thumb and forefinger.
Multiple Exposure – you can combine up to (9) exposures to a single frame.
61 high-density AF points. Most advanced yet for superior AF precision and low light sensitivity.
New AF, intelligent tracking and recognition enhancements.
New metering and exposure control using dedicated Digic 4 processor
1080p video with new HD video formats and new compression.
Selectable frame rates of 24p, 25p, 30p, and 720p HD or SD at 50p or 60p, NTSC or PAL. Can exceed (4) GB file capacity, and continuous recording up to 1/2 hour. Audio has manual level control, and wind filter, through internal mic or optional external stereo mic input.

Release date is said to be March, 2012, with an expected manufacturing rate of 7,000 per month.

My take
This is an awesome speed demon. An upgrade that combines the previous top two Canon DSLR’s, the 1Ds Mark III and the 1D Mark IV into a single, impressive, pro body. Realizing that pixel quality is more important than pixel amount, at 18 high-quality, extremely low-noise megapixels, this camera looks to be amazing!

An able competitor that may actually exceed Nikon’s D3 and D3x flagship. It’s too early to tell, since no image samples have been posted yet, and no camera bodies released for reviewers to test.

 

Nikon on Facebook

Catherine Hall, a pro photographer, blogger, and host of the TWIT Photo podcast, commented on Google+ about a post by Nikon on Facebook recently. The post said “The photographer is only as good as his equipment”.  Nikon, Seriously? What’s weirder, there are over 1,600 people that “liked” this on the Facebook post!

There’s some speculation that this was the work of a hacker. Who would do such a thing? And if so, why? To discredit Nikon? That’s not going to happen. If true and a Nikon rep wrote it, Nikon will surely handle it appropriately.

Catherine has over 120 comments on this post so far, and there are over 2,750 comments on the errant post as well.

Feel free to add yours!

Click here to see Catherine Hall’s post on Google+

Click here to see Nikon’s Facebook post

 

 

 

"Nikon, are you serious?"
Nikon, are you serious?