benjamin

Spring and Summer Photos

Spring and Summer Photos

I take a lot of photos that don’t really fall into a category. Normally these photos just sit in my library, unseen for the most part.

I’ve decided to post a few of them so you can see a sample of what I normally keep to myself.

Wedding Photography at the Morris Museum and Morristown Hyatt in New Jersey

Wedding Photography at the Morris Museum and Morristown Hyatt in New Jersey

(edited 2:53pm)

This past May Benjamin Lehman Photography was given the opportunity to shoot a gorgeous wedding in historic Morristown, NJ. A little history about Morristown, and I’ll keep this brief; Morristown stood as the headquarters a for General George Washington’s and the Continental Army after victories in Trenton and Princeton. Much of the scenery reflects the areas colonial heritage — this leads to many great photographic opportunities if you know exactly how to work the history into photos.

The morning of the wedding started with me, my cameras and the wedding party getting ready at the Morristown Hyatt. The Hyatt is swathed in beautiful decor and style, making it very easy to take great photos.

When I work alone, (as I did for much of this wedding), I make sure to know the schedule for the day down to a T. I often go as far as to measure the time it will take me to get between points A and B the day before so I can factor driving and walking times into my own schedule.

I started the day with the bride and the bridesmaids getting ready in the bridal suite. In many ways, these are my favorite photos to take during the day of the wedding. The girls are always full of smiles, the atmosphere is filled with excitement and the over all transformation of becoming a bride is a magical thing.

Once I’ve taken a few shots of the ladies, I’ll head over to where the gents are getting prepared. Guys are also fun to photograph, but for different reasons. The atmosphere with groom and groomsman is almost always laid back. It usually constitutes of one or more guys asking another how to properly tie a tie, discussing sports, and dirty jokes.

Shooting with the guys usually goes fairly fast, maybe 15 to 30 minutes. Then I head back to the girl’s room to capture some more pictures as they finish getting ready.

Some weddings schedule time for Bridal Party photos after the wedding ceremony, and some do it before. For our gig in New Jersey we had 2 hours before the ceremony to get all the photos we needed. Because I had scouted many locations the day before I had a great mental plan of attack. I would take most of my pictures in a garden behind a historical house, and save one last photo for a specific place in the museum where the ceremony would take place.

At the last moment I did have a change of heart with taking all of the photos in the gardens — I realized I didn’t want a large bulk of the photos to have a similar background. Additionally, I’d like the groom and groomsman to have a slightly more manly environment. So, I took the guys and we went to the hotel bar. It just so happens that the Hyatt in Morristown has one of the best looking contemporary bars I’ve ever seen. At one point I even had them order shots of whiskey so I could grab some great photos of a toast to the groom.

Once I finished with the guys in the bar, I headed with the ladies to the garden. This all happened in early May, which meant all the trees were flowering, the grass was green, and the entire area was alive.

When I pose for bridal party photos I’ll do two things. First, I’ll do the traditional stand-next-to-each-other photos. They aren’t my favorite photos, but they serve a traditional purpose.

Then, once those are out of the way I’ll start to pose my subjects like we’re shooting photos for a magazine spread. I do this by putting people throughout the environment, and adding depth and interaction between the subjects and their surroundings. You don’t have to make it too elaborate however. For this shoot, I found just a little depth in my photos between the various bridesmaids is all we needed to create some wonderful photos.

After our time in the gardens the entire wedding party packed up and headed to the wedding venue at the Morris Museum.

The museum itself is an amazing venue. It’s part old mansion, part contemporary museum with displays for both kids and adults. The ground’s curator, a great guy named Peter, gave me a personal tour. Perhaps the thing that impressed me most is the fact that there are priceless pieces of art on display without barriers to the public. If one so wished, he could walk right up to a Rembrandt and touch the very paint laid down by the master so many years ago (but,uh, don’t do that). The atmosphere of the mansion and all of it’s beautiful paints had influenced me earlier when I was scouting and it gave me an idea for a photo.

Once myself, and everyone else arrived, I ushered them into one particularly gorgeous room within the mansion. My plan was to take a wide-angle photo with the entire wedding party. I wanted it to be very stylish, very dramatic, with strong shadows and highlights. The only problem was I had to photograph a huge room and only had one studio strobe available. My solution was to use a technique where you take multiple photos, moving the light between each photo, and then merge the photos together in Photoshop to create one, complete photo that has a big-production look to it. We only had 5 minutes before the ceremony began, so I moved very quickly, posing people, taking the photo, moving the light, and taking the next photo over and over again until I knew I had all the elements I needed to create the picture I set out to capture.

Once that was finished I took my place in the back of the hall, down the center of the isle as the ceremony started. Once the ceremony starts, it then becomes a job of capturing the beauty of the wedding as it unfolds.

The evening ended with a marvelous reception. My plan of action was to be the fly on the wall who flits around and snaps all of the brilliant candid moments that happen around the room and on the dance floor.

My time in Morristown, NJ stands as one of the most superb weddings I’ve ever had the pleasure of photographing and it left me a great feeling and urge to have more experiences like this one.

Benjamin Lehman is a commercial wedding, portrait and advertising photographer willing to travel to where ever the beautiful pictures are!

Photos of you and your wedding party getting ready are some of the most important photos you’ll want to have as memories of your wedding day.

You’re going to be drop-dead gorgeous on your wedding day — your photos should be too!

Hanging out and taking pictures of the groom and his groomsman is always a blast.

Wedding photos should be timeless and look as if they belong in a magazine spread.

To create a big-production look for this photo, I took several photos while re-positioning the light between each picture. Once assembled in Photoshop, the final effect is a beautiful, cinematic portrait of the entire wedding party.

Joe McNally Explains TTL

Joe McNally is not your average Joe. With a career spanning over 30 years and including assignments in more than 50 countries, Joe McNally has shot everything everywhere in every thinkable sort of way. In addition to being an exceptionally experienced photographer, Joe is also known for his remarkable ability to share that knowledge. In this video he explains what TTL is and how to use it to improve your photography. Here is how it works, in Joe’s own words.

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Sigma 70-200mm F2.8 EX DG OS HSM – Detail, Image Quality and Sharpness Test. Sample Images Included.

The Sigma 70-200 is an amazing lens, but just how amazing?

Just recently I read a lens review where the person writing the review said, “Sharpness is not something I normally notice on a lens.” To this point all I can say is, wait, what?

How can any photographer, specifically one who is writing a review of a lens, not notice how sharp a lens is? Maybe I’m wrong, but when shopping for a new lens, isn’t the sharpness of a lens just as important as it’s focal length?

For this review, I am talking specifically about the sharpness. Even more specifically, the sharpness at it’s widest aperture setting of f/2.8. I am also testing it’s sharpness with OS (optical stabilization) both on and off.

First, let’s take a look at a real world application for a lens like the 70-200 — A wedding. Weddings are a great test bed because you need a lens that can give you a sharp, great looking image in conditions you often can’t plan for. A common rule when shooting with a telephoto lens is to have your shutter speed match, if not exceed the focal length of your lens. So, if shooting at 200mm, you’d ideally have a shutter speed around 1/250. A rule like this is easy to follow if you can plan for the situation you’re shooting in, but when working a fast paced job, like a wedding, you may not always be able to comply with a rule like this. That’s why a lens with optical stabilization (also known as IS, or VC) can be so important.

Sigma at 200mm with OS on (click for larger view)

Sigma at 200mm with OS on (click for larger view)

Here are two sample images illustrating the sharpness of the Sigma 70-200 with OS on.  This first sample is an uncropped photo, straight from the camera. Even at this size, not zoomed in, it’s apparent how clean the details are. It’s even more amazing when you consider this image was shot at 1/80th of a second, zoomed in at 200mm. That’s way below the threshold for steady, clean shooting. Shooting a lens at this speed, at this focal length would normally mean your photos would suffer from a bad case of the jitters.

Sigma at 200mm with OS on (click for larger view)

Sigma at 200mm with OS on (click for larger view)

Now let’s zoom in and look at some detail from this photo with stabilization turned on. You can easily see just how amazing this lens is. The details, like the lines around the eyes, and the eyelashes, are damn near perfectly sharp. And don’t forget, this is wide open at f/2.8. Historically a lens’ widest aperture setting is not where it performs at its best in terms of sharpness, but here we can see the Sigma performing astonishingly well.

200mm at 1/400 with OS off.

200mm at 1/400 with OS off.

So, we’ve shown that the Sigma’s sharpness with OS enabled is amazing, but does that mean it’ll function equally well when you have enough light to shoot without OS? Let’s find out!

In this first image, we can see that our subject (the bird) is acceptably sharp at f/2.8.  For reference, the focus point was placed over the bird’s eye, just as it was for our subject in the wedding photo above.

200mm at 1/400 with OS off.

200mm at 1/400 with OS off.

Here I’ve cropped the image in the way I would do it if I were sharing this photo on social media, or a photo-sharing site.

This may not be an extreme crop, but even at this modest size we can see the details are being maintained in stunning fashion.

200mm at 1/400 with OS off.

200mm at 1/400 with OS off.

This is an extreme crop. In fact, I am zooming in around 25% further than the photo’s max native resolution.

It’s here, at this extreme zoom, that we see just how awesome the Sigma’s sharpness really is. The fidelity of the Sigma 70-200mm lens means you can scale your photos a bit beyond 100% and still retain respectable sharpness. In practical terms, this means higher quality prints at larger sizes, and the ability to really dig into your photos to create a better composition in post.

One last thought on image quality concerns color fringing. I’ve read elsewhere that Canon lenses tend to fringe with a magenta tint, and Sigmas tend to fringe with a greenish tint. That green fringe is evident here. I can also say through experience that the amount of color fringing on the Sigma is less than it is on my Canon lenses. This only applies to the Canon lenses I own, and the amount of difference in fringing varies from lens to lens.

So, here’s where I, the reviewer, try to summarize my thoughts on the subject. Before I do that, however, let me just address one argument that many photographers have made since the beginning of time. That is, simply, that you should never waste money on a non-brand lens.

When I first used this lens 2 weeks ago, it only took a few hours before someone said, “That’s not a Canon lens, but hey, it’s cheaper, right?”

“Cheaper, and perhaps better.”, I replied. The guy who made the comment looked shocked. I’m sure he either felt I was a first year newb photographer, or that I was just crazy. But, when I turned the camera around and showed him some of the photos I was taking he simply nodded, shut his mouth and sat down in his chair. Why? Because the proof is in the pudding; you can’t dispute results.

I’ve owned a 70-200 Canon lens for over 6 years and I’ve loved it every time I’ve used it. The cold, hard truth however, is that this Sigma is better. Oh yea, it’s cheaper too.

Cheap Gear: Light Modifiers from Neewer.

More great, cheap gear

Today’s cheap gear update is on two light modifiers from a company called Neewer. Neweer is a company similar to CowBoy Studios in that they make cheap, knock-off photography equipment. Because it’s cheap, not everything you buy from them is going to be worth it in the long run, but there are some gems hiding in their catalog that are worth picking up.

The first is a strip box with grid: NEEWER® Softbox with Grid Mount 35X160 cm / 13.8″ X 63″ Beehive for Flash, Speedlight (NOTE: The photo on the amazon page is very deceptive – It’s not a wide softbox, as depicted in the image, but rather a very long and narrow strip box.)

I bought this strip light so I could have a light weight solution for when I am using my speedlites. Again, you never know what you’re going to get for about $40 but I figured it was worth the gamble. As it turns out, it was. Actually, I have been pleasantly surprised by the build quality of this strip light. It’s built just about as solid as my much more expensive studio soft boxes and has a couple cool extra features that I wasn’t expecting. First, it has a secondary, interior light diffuser. Most cheap softboxes do NOT have an interior diffuser. Secondly, it has two little port holes that Velcro shut on either side of the strip light so you can reach in and apply things like gels to your light quickly without having to disassemble half of your rigging.

The only tricky part is that you’ll need to buy a special bowens mount to get this thing to work with your speedlite. I bought the Neewer S-Type Bracket Holder with Bowens Mount for Speedlites. Again, I wasn’t expecting much, but in all honesty, this is a pretty bad ass mount. It has one feature that I think is really cool – the speedlite clamps into the mount, rather than cold shoeing in. That may sound silly, but trust me, it’s awesome. Because you clamp the head of your speedlite in, that means the base of your speedlite is free to rotate around and face any direction. If you use optical TTL like I do, then you’ll immediately recognize the benefit of being about to twist your speedlite’s sensor around to face you. For the record, I ordered 2 of these.

The last item is another softbox, the NEEWER® Softbox with Grid Bowens Mount 70X100 cm / 27.5″ X 39.4″ with grid. When I do two light setups (which I love doing) I like to have a striplight for dramatic lighting and a larger, equirectangular softbox for more traditional light coverage. Either one of these lights can play the part of either key or fill light, it’s just up to you to figure out what’s needed for your shot. At $40 for this softbox, there’s no reason to pass it up.

All told, if you buy these two soft boxes and two mounts, you’re looking at a total of $120 and that’s dirt cheap. Especially when you consider how good these products are for the price you’re paying – You’re photog friends with poor budgeting skills will have paid several hundreds, if not a thousand dollars, for similar set ups.

 

 

My Favorite Light Modifier – the Westcott 7′ Umbrella

 

In my search for great, cheap gear, this is one is a must-have

Modifiers let photographers take their light and mess around, get creative. Small modifiers can give you a sharp, zappy light with strong contrast. Large modifiers can even out shadows, spilling light across a surface. Huge modifiers do the same, only they take that principle to the extreme! At 7 feet, this Westcott umbrella is about as big as you can get while still being manageable in the field.

Because it’s an umbrella, albeit a very large one, it folds up quickly and easily into a relatively small volume. That means you can throw it into the back of your small car, or take it with you into the field without having to deal with something more cumbersome like a metal framed light panel. Like most studio umbrellas, nearly all studio light or speedlite brackets will accommodate it nicely.

One thing that really surprised me with the Westcott is how well it works with a single speedlite. You’d expect something 7 feet across to eat up the light from a tiny flash unit, but that’s not the case. A single 430ex II speedlite is more than capable of working with this gigantic modifier with great results. I’d suggest using at least two speedlites to help preserve battery life, but in a pinch 1 speedlite will work flawlessly.

I used this light this past weekend while photographing my step-daughter’s wedding. I only had 5 minutes to get the shot and that included light step up, composition, and posing. Because I only had one light I used a technique where you take several photos of the scene, moving the light around between each shutter release. Once you’re done you stitch the photos together, creating a photo that looks as though it was light with 4 or more giant modifiers.

Below is the final photo, beautifully lit thanks to the Westcott 7′ White Umbrella

IMG_1039-Edit

Sigma 70-200mm f/2.8 EX DG APO OS HSM Image Samples, Quick review

 

the Sigma 70-200mm f/2.8 from lensrentals has arrived. Here are some sample images

Sigma 70-200mm f/2.8

Sigma 70-200mm f/2.8

I was very excited to have this lens arrive. I am renting it specifically for a job I have coming up over the next week that requires a lot of hand-held photography and the Optical Stabilization offered by the Sigma is the chief reason why I choose to rent this particular lens.

Image Quality was also important and all of the reviews I read online indicated that this lens would be a great choice. Below are a few sample images I took with the Sigma while walking through the yard. All photos were taken with the aperture wide open at f/2.8.


 

Benjamin Lehman is a commercial portrait and advertising photographer in the Canton, Northeast Ohio area

Tamron AF 70-300mm f/4.0-5.6 Di LD Macro Zoom Lens

Here are some images using the $150 Tamron AF 70-300mm f/4.0-5.6 lens. It’s not the world’s best lens by far, but it has some very cool niche uses — specifically, if you don’t want to spent more than $150.

These images are all shot at 300mm, f/5.6, on a 5d Mark II. All images were processed in Lightroom with a sharpness of 50.

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Old Favorites and Cheap Gear

Image from Canon's website

The f/4.0 has never done me wrong.
Image from Canon’s website

If you’ve read any of my previous posts, you know I am a die-hard fan of the Canon 70-200mm f/4.0. Why? Well, it’s image quality is superb and it’s dirt cheap by comparison. As for the f/4.0’s speed, it’s not that big of a deal if you’re shooting in the studio or using lights of any sort. Sure, it’s not the best action lens out there, an f/2.8 would be better suited for that, but even that’s debatable. If you look up “action shot” on flickr, you’ll quickly notice that almost none of the best photos are taken anywhere near f/2.8 – they are often in the realm f/8 and above. So, again, why spend more for an f/2.8 when you can probably do 99.5% of the photos you want to take at f/4?

Well the time has come for me to try something new. No, I am not going to relinquish my love for the f/4 and trade-up to the 2.8, but I did have an opportunity come in that will allow me to try a 70-200mm f/2.8 from LensRentals for a week. More specifically, the Sigma 70-200mm f/2.8 EX DG APO OS HSM.

That’s a lot of abbreviations in that product name, but there is one in particular I am really interested in. The “OS”, which stands for Optical Stabilization. The reason for all this is because I’ll be spending a lot of time zoomed all the way out to 200mm and I’ll be hand holding the camera the whole time. I don’t plan to be shooting much at f/2.8, but since I’ll have the chance to do so, you can bet that I’ll do some comparison shots between the Sigma at 2.8 and my trusty Canon at 4.0. Be on the look out for that review!

Secondly, I promised a month or so ago to share some information about being a professional photographer with cheap gear. I’ve always argued that your camera will be the most expensive piece of gear that you’ll own, but does the rest of your gear need to be expensive too?

Well, here is a look at some purchases I’ve made over the past few months and a quick grade on their quality.

Product
(Name of Product)
BlackRapid RSD-1BB Double
Aputure Trigmaster Plus II
Neewer S-Type Flash Bracket
Leaper Multi-functional Canvas Camera Backpack
CowboyStudio Umbrella Mount Bracket with Swivel/Tilt Bracket
ePhoto H6704 Triple Hotshoe Mount
Fotodiox 5 Feetx7 Feet Collapsible Soft Diffuser
XCSource Complete Square Filter Kit
Tamron AF 70-300mm f/4.0-5.6 Di LD Macro Zoom Lens
Price
(How Much it Costs)
$139
$60
$20
$60
$14
$29
$58
$24
$150
Grade
(Is it good?)
A+
A
B-
A-
A
B-
A+
B+
C+

And, uh, just disregard those buttons here at the bottom of the table – I am using a free table plug in and apparently, it has buttons.

The grades are based on one simple principle; Does the product work as I’d expect it to? As you can see, most of these ‘cheap’ alternatives are scoring a B or above, with a couple A+ grades in there. The one exception is the Tamron AF 70-300mm which I bought to use for some experimental photographs. For $150 bux, you get exactly what you’d expect. It’s a good lens for starters, and works pretty well in a very tight studio environment, but other than that it’s not a lens that should be anywhere on your Must Buy list.

 

Benjamin Lehman is a Commercial Portrait and Advertising Photographer in the Canton, Northeast Ohio area.

Benjamin Lehman Takes Daily Top Honors on Flickr

The best photos happen in the worst weather

Or so famous wildlife and landscape photographer, Moose Peterson, says. And ya know what? I think he’s right. It’s certainly be kind to me. Some of my best photos have been taken under adverse weather conditions.

When the weather got bad this past week, I headed out my front door with camera in hand and took a few pictures and it paid off again. One of the photos I took received Flickr’s Explore (their version of Editor’s Choice) recognition. It’s always an honor to be highlighted on a major photography site, humbling as well.

Here are some more photos taken that day under the stormy skies.

Benjamin Lehman is a Commercial Photographer in the Northeast Ohio, Canton area.

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