Seasonal Inspiration: Autumn


Different seasons offer many opportunities to photograph the world around you, but my favorite time of year both personally and photographically is autumn!  Something about a chill in the morning air, the colors of the leaves and even the misty fog that is prevalent this time of year makes for some truly breathtaking scenes.

Perhaps one of my favorite images I’ve ever seen from Autumn comes from some of the footage from a movie in the 80’s called The Dead Poet’s Society.  There’s a scene with a bagpiper playing his end of the day tune as birds take to the air, and the notes float across the lake.  The footage comes from Vermont, at a boy’s prep school, but that doesn’t mean you can’t find scenes worthy of a shutter click in your own neck of the woods.

Time is drawing nigh for photo gathering too as the autumnal equinox just happened on Sunday.  The day marks the time of year when the equator of the Earth aligns with the center of the sun.  In the Spring, the tilt is toward the sun and in the fall, the Earth tilts away from the sun.  Both the spring and fall solstice (another term for the equinox) events indicate 12 hours of daylight and 12 hours of darkness.  From this point forward (until Spring anyway), the days will start getting shorter and the nights start getting longer.  This means sunset will happen earlier and earlier every day.

As we get less light, a chemical reaction happens in the leaves of trees, causing the chlorophyll to break down.  The chillier air also has an impact on some varieties of trees.  The best trees (in my opinion) to shoot for fall foliage are Maple trees, beech, dogwoods, and Hickory because the leaf colors are the bright orange and red ones that contrast very nicely against the still blue skies (when it’s not raining).

Here’s some sample shots from my own repertoire to give you some inspiration.  For this year, I am going to try and visit the Amish country of Ohio around the Hocking Hills area.  Other options include Chataqua NY (there’s an awesome lake there that would be quite idyllic!).  What plans do you have for shooting Fall foliage?  Any places you’ve been to where you’ve gotten nice results?  Sound off in the comments with your own fall foliage itineraries!

More pano testing…

As I continue with various software programs to test pano quality, I tried another application today, and the results were actually pretty good considering.  I used the native PhotoMerge function from my Photoshop Cs3 Extended, and I must say that as far as panos go, the results are nice.  The native functionality adds a shorter workflow for when you need to clean up minor details (since you are already in PS), and no worrying about control points.  The downside is that you are going to lose a little more in post production cropping simply because Photoshop can’t match all the control points that dedicated panorama programs can.  Nevertheless, it was a fun exercise.

For those of you that read my previous post that had panoramas in it (“The Moment it…Oops”) you’ll notice this is a different picture, and in all fairness, I should note that this had more images in it, and I was using a different lens during capture.  But, when I get down to the nitty gritty and review all the programs side by side, it will be the same image.  This one was from our recent Denver Photo Walk group outing to RMNP that I had talked about last Friday here on the blog.  Thoughts, comments, feedback and critiques are always welcome, and since the blog doesn’t really work well with displaying panoramas, if you click the photo below, you’ll be taken to a full (web size anyway) image where you can see all the details!  Enjoy! 🙂

RMNP Panorama

Happy shooting and we’ll see you back here again tomorrow!

Cactus, Trigger, Zebra, Oh My!

Remember the old game of password where you said a related word to one on your card to get your partner to guess it?  Well, here goes:  What do the words cactus, trigger, and zebra all have in common?  If you answered “flash photography” you’d be right!  As you may have realized, that does mean that the podcast will not come out today – I simply didn’t have time to get all my thoughts and notes together.  So instead, here’s a review of sorts that I did just earlier this evening.

A while back I decided to ditch the Canon ST-E2 wireless trigger for a number of reasons – those being:

  1. It relied on line-of-sight
  2. It didn’t have a very good range
  3. It wouldn’t work with non-Canon gear

I, like many others, have been salivating over the new developments in radio trigger technology.  And, at my last job, I had access to multiple lights, strobes, and such for experimentation.  So, in order to do said experimentation, I decided to invest in some Cactus Triggers that I purchased off an online web vendor (I forget the vendor off the top of my head – search the archives and I am sure it’s there…).  Much to my chagrin though, it would not work with my Canon 550EX flash.  So, when I left my previous job, it was back to the ST-E2.  In order to spur some motivation to invest in some more serious lighting gear on my own, I decided to sell the ST-E2 to fund the purchase of some Cyber Syncs.

Long story short, I ended up with no off-camera method to trigger my one flash unit.  So, I was back on-camera.  Needless to say, ambient light photography was a large focus for that time period.  Well, after the economy stabilized a little for the household with my state job, I decided to invest in the Cyber Syncs – but as a measure of insurance, wanted to make sure the devices would work in my 550EX (the 550EX does not have a sync port).  So, a quick email to them revealed that a neat little device from the folks over at Flash Zebra would make the Cyber Syncs compatible.  A mere $14 later and the device arrived late last week (while I was in SC).  So, next month the Cyber Syncs will be making their way to my doorstep.

In the meantime, I have these Cactus triggers, and I thought with the inclusion of a sync port, perhaps I could jerry-rig something together.  With the sync port going out to what looks to be an RC-mini, and the receiver also going out to an RC-mini, I needed a way to join two RC-mini’s together.  A quick dig through my various buckets of cables and connectors revealed a dual mini that is normally used to connect to headphones to a single audio.  Worth a shot, since it’s only about $50 total invested.  I connected everything together to get this:


On your left is the trigger that came from Cactus, to the RC male.  A reducer on that took it to an RC-mini male.  In the center is the well-hidden PC-sync device that came from Flash Zebra.  (For a better picture, see below…)  A female sync port on that was able to connect to the male sync port that was included with my Cactus gear.  That also went to an RC-mini male.  These are both connected on the right to the y-connector that you would typically see two headsets connect to the same audio source.  The technology is the same, so it’s worth a shot right?  (No pun intended…)

I fired off a test shot from the 40D and it worked!  So, how well would it work?  What kind of reliability would there be?  I took the flash into the next room and fired the trigger from a further distance away…about 20 feet.  Flash!  Then I took the trigger around the corner and fired it.  Flash!  How cool is that?  Another set of tests was needed.  One where radio waves wouldn’t bounce all over the place – outside!  If you recall, I interviewed Scott Eccleston from Weekly Photo Tips a while back, and a recent post of his armed me with a good testing method of the Cactus triggers.  Armed with the inspiration of this video, I enlisted the aid of my wife and took to the great outdoors.

I began with a fresh set of batteries in both the trigger and receiver, as well as the flash.  Starting from ten steps away from the flash, I tripped the shutter – flash!  Twenty paces – flash!  Thirty paces – flash!  Fourty paces – nada.  Hmmm…tried again – nada.  So, I moved back to 35 paces – still nada.  A couple steps closer and it flashed again.  About four more tests at this distance and I had 100% flash rate.  Starting back to my wife, I counted the paces, 1-2-3… all the way to 33 paces.  At an average gait of 3 feet per pace, that’s an outside range of 99 feet!  Considerably better than the ST-E2 and at a third of the price!

For posterity’ sake, and since I am in a very casual way reviewing the PC-sync adaptor from Flash Zebra, here’s a better shot of just that device.


Also for posterity sake, here’s a view of the trigger that attached to the hot shoe of the 550EX: