Natural, Available, or Ambient?

Candlelight

We are probably all familiar enough with the idea that photography is about capturing light as it paints our subjects in various colors, tones, and hues, but recently I am discovering that many are starting to refer to their photographic pursuits in very lofty terms, those being natural light, available light, and ambient light.  I can understand the desire to distinguish ones craft, because it is often difficult to “stand out” in a crowd. Read more

Painting with Light

About a year ago, Joe McNally gave a talk at Google where he referenced the roots of the word photography.  The two roots are photo and graphos, and the meanings are light and write.  We so often hear of people “painting with light”, and after seeing a few people demonstrating how they use flashlights to paint and write with light, I thought it might be fun to give it a whirl.  So, I set up in my den/basement room/office/man cave with the camera on a tripod and went about the goal of writing with light.

To set the scene, I put the camera on it’s lowest aperture for the lens (f3.5), and this way everything around would get thrown out of focus.  I set the shutter to 5 seconds, and the ISO to 100.  That way I would have enough time to draw each letter, and produce little noise as possible.

Next was to set a point of focus – enter my light stand as a model.  I set the focus on that (about 6 feet away), and then switched to manual focus on the lens so the point wouldn’t change.  Next step – mark the floor so I know where to stand (anything works – for me it was a USB flash drive).  Finally, I moved the light stand out of the way and started to eliminate other sources of light, as  I also wanted the surroundings to be completely dark.  So I turned off the computer (monitors give off an amazing amount of light, closed the blinds (even at night, street lights can push stray light into your image), and shut the door to the room.  Working off the handheld flashlight now, I changed the camera to start on a 10 second delay to give me time to get into position.

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The rest is in the post processing.  Since I was in the middle of re-installing Windows and freshening things up last night, I’ve not had time to composite these together, but you get the idea of where I am heading!  Give it a try yourself – painting with light can be fun!  Have a great weekend everyone, happy shooting and we’ll see you back here Monday morning!

Impact Lightstand: Hardware Review

This week’s hardware review is the Sigma Lightstand.  Specifically, the Impact 8 foot Air Cushion Lightstand.  While you may think that this is something that wouldn’t garner much discussion – I actually have found this to be a very handy tool.  “Tool?”, you ask.  Yes, a tool.  Sure, it’s primary function is to hold lights, but look at the variety even there – I’ve used it for small flashes (like my 550 EX II), studio strobes from Smith Victor, and water bags.

Lest you do a double take, that’s right, I used it along with a makeshift boom (arm that extends out to the side) to hold a water bag for a photo project.  The point is, light stands, like tripods, can function in a wide variety of capacities.   While I tend to shy away from making generalizations because I know my own gear experiences are unique, for me the biggest difference between a light stand and a tripod is weight and stability – light stands seem much lighter and aren’t as stable.  I am sure there are some high end light stands that provide excellent stability and can weigh a decent amount, but this one that I use is pretty light:

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I’ve linked the photo to the item at B&H (Item #IMLS8AQ  ) for those that want all the detailed specs, but here’s my two cents.

Pros:

  • Weight – these things are super light, and very easy to move around.  I could literally pick one of these up with one finger.
  • Extension – this basic model extends up to eight feet tall and compresses down into a shade under 3 feet.
  • Cost – very inexpensive, running a mere $35 from B&H Photo – small price to pay for an assistant
  • Size – this collapses down so small, I can fit my tripod, my monopod, umbrella, and this all in an over-the-shoulder bag!  Compactness is a plus, especially when travelling!
  • Functionality – aside from the obvious funtion of holding lights of various sizes, with a small clamp, you could hold pretty much anything from lights to grey cards to reflectors, to booms with water bags.  Heck, you can even jury-rig something from your garage or storage shed to make this guy hold pretty much anything for you.  So much for the photo assistant, eh?

Cons

  • Weight – yep, while a pro, it’s also a con – because they are so light, the can get easily bumped out of position or knocked over.  While using it with the boom/water bag for a weekend project, I bumped it ever so slightly with my foot and everything got knocked out of position.  Not by much, but when your DOF is a mere quarter of an inch and you are zoomed in tight on a water drop, one little bump requires re-setting everything from scratch again!
  • Workmanship – I was rather disappointed when I was going to pull out one of the extensions one day when the whole top pulled off the bottom legs.  It seems the nuts that are used to anchor legs and extensions into position weren’t tightened down all the way and as a result, a firm yank can pull it off the assembly.  Then, when I went to tighten it back down – the plastic collar that the screw/net combo fits through cracked on me.  *Sigh* Ah well – it still works, and I just have to make a mental note not to pull on the extension too roughly as the top will pop off.  But, what do you expect for $35?

Bottom line – I’d recommend this for people needed an extra set of hands from time to time.  If you are into off camera lighting (and after Wednesday, you should be!), then a light stand is a must – and this is a great entry level one that will fit your needs indefinitely, because even if you upgrade, an extra set of hands is just a few seconds away.

That’s it for today – make sure you stop in tomorrow for the next installment of software reviews!  Happy shooting and see you then!