Not a whole lot of snow has fallen around here this time of year, but when it did finally reach the ground I was reach with camera in hand!
I ENJOY environmental portraiture…
… a face in a place. It gives me a chance to get out of the office and it gives the client an opportunity to tie their persona to the work they do.
Because of that, I almost never shoot on a flat backdrop unless there is a very specific reason for doing so. In this case, the factors were time, budget and style. And, I should mention the style sort of arose out of the time and budget.
So now what? You’re stuck in a situation that could lead to some fairly brand photos. The problem is how are we going to keep things looking elegant and modern while shooting on a flat, white background?
Well, I love shadows. Shadows instantly add depth. I was going to give the entire portrait a slightly under-exposed look, so I started by globally lowering my exposure by minus 1 ev to help bring the shadows to life. To do this, I expose properly, then dial down the exposure one stop. Then I tweak the back drop lights so I am getting pure white on the seamless, taking care so that no flare or wash is creeping in around the edges of our subject. This is backwards from most photographers who will expose for the background first (because it can be tricky) and then expose for their subject once they are on set. In my situation, however, I exposed subject and then background and went from there.
Lighting this turned out to be one of the most fun photographic exercises I have done in a long while. I had lights dedicated to the subject and some for the background, but I also had some lights that were both flagged for the background and diffused for the subject at the same time. By the end of this endeavor, I had 4 lights total lighting the scene.
The star of the show was the Einstein 640 studio light which continues to really impress me with all of its little tricks. I bought a small cyber commander which allows me to meter, adjust and shoot – all without ever touching the light. I know this isn’t new technology, but the Einsteins do it much better than even the much more expensive profoto and broncolor lights. Impressive indeed.
Here you can see an iPhone production shot of the set up we’re using. The camera is our older 5D Mark II, with the very cheap 100mm f/2.8 macro lens, which actually works great as a portrait lens. The large octobox houses our Einstein 640, the rest of the lights are AlienBees. We’re also using one canon 600ex-rt speedlite in a gridded strip box as a hair light. That light is triggered through a second wireless remote that runs out of the cameras sync cord connector. Yeah, it’s a bit of a Frankenstein, but it’s important to know that you can mix nearly any type of light on set to achieve the conditions you need.
Benjamin Lehman is a commercial photographer in the Canton, Northeast Ohio area.
We just recently picked up the new Analog Film pack from Rocket Rooster…
…and I was really anxious to try it out. I’ve been using the VSCO film packs (mostly #4) for a long time now and I was very interested in seeing how Rocket’s film pack would stand up.
The first thing you’ll notice is that there is a huge difference in price between the RR and VSCO packs. At the time of writing this review VSCO has 7 packs available for purchase, each one costing $120. By contrast RR has only one pack costing $35. If that seems like a bargain, then consider that you can by RR’s pack even cheaper for $26, as long as you send out a tweet about it before check out.
I love VSCO, and I use their presets often, mainly as a starting point, to give my photos the looks I want, but I’ve always thought they were woefully over priced. There is no way a pack of presets are worth $120. RR’s solution at $35 is much more in line with my sensibilities. At such a low price, that leaves a very important question hanging in the air – can Rocket Rooster deliver the goods?
I spent a few hours in lightroom yesterday, clicking between presets from both companies. I tried to find a few common film emulations between the two, but found that it was actually hard to do. First off, VSCO’s library is so huge that you’ll often find that each film type has many different variations. And with names like, “C – Polaroid 690 Warm ++”, it can be kind of hard to tell exactly what condition of film you are actually emulating.
I did finally find two presets that were named exactly the same between the two packs. What we’ve settled for is Color Fuji Film Provia 400x. Let’s look at them side by side.
Fuji 400x - Rocket Rooster
Fuji 400x - VSCO
The good news is, you can tell they are trying to emulate the same brand of film, but which one looks better? Rockets? VSCO? I certainly have a feeling which way I am leaning. Argh, can’t it be true? Can my love affair with VSCO be over? Maybe so, because I certainly like the treatment on Rocket’s version over VCSO’s.
RR’s shadows are smoother, the low end shadow detail is preserved better, the color and contrast looks better, the skin’s coloration is more even throughout the photo. RR’s version pretty much wins in every category here.
There is a caveat, however — we’re talking film emulation here. Small variations in color, contrast, shadows and highlights can all be tweaked after the fact to achieve the exact effect you’re looking for. Like I said before, presets are starting points, not finish lines.
Having said that, I felt like all of RR’s film presets gave me a better starting point for editing across the board. VSCO’s system is way too bloated, both in price and content. More doesn’t mean better, it just means more. Don’t get me wrong, I won’t be getting rid of my VSCO collection any time soon, but I’ll be using Rocket Rooster’s presets first.
You can buy Rocket Rooster’s Analog Film Pack here.
Benjamin Lehman is a Commercial Advertising and Portrait Photographer in the Canton, Northeast Ohio Region.
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.Read More»
The weather forecast was calling for 3-6 inches of snow, the temp hovering around 33 degrees. If you’ve ever lived on the east coast, then you know it can snow even when the temp is above freezing and this can cause you a few problems.
How to Survive Bad Weather as a Photographer
Whether it’s 36 degrees Fahrenheit , or -10 below, the problems dealing with the cold are pretty much the same; staying warm is your first-most priority. The second priority is staying dry if possible. Anything below 20 degrees and this is relatively easy. The colder the air temperature, the less likelihood the snow will melt upon landing on you and your equipment.
But when temperatures get above 20, especially above 32 degrees, snow can melt on contact and ultimately effect your clothes and equipment in the same way as if you were standing in a rain storm. For the event, we would be standing on the ice, over a frozen lake, right in the middle of the action and subsequently, the weather. I took this into account and set up several shoot-through umbrellas attached to light stands to act as actual umbrellas, keeping the snow off of my speedlites and giving me a dry place to stand. When I had to change location to get a better vantage point for a photo, I would take my photo and then retreat under the umbrella and dab-dry my camera with a soft towel. This meant my camera gear was never in any real danger from water damage.
Another issue with shooting in a blizzard is visibility. I had brought my speedlites so I could stop the action in midair, just as these poor folks were about to take the plunge, as well as to help equalize the exposure between the subject and the near-pure white background. Problem is, when the snow is coming down heavily and you shoot with a flash, all you’ll see is the reflected light bouncing off the snow in the air, ultimately overexposing your photo. Because of this I had to work in two modes. One mode was in shutter priority with no flash. I never use shutter priority, like never ever. But here, where I need around 1/600 of a second to get a crisp action shot, using Shutter Priority was the best bet. For this scenario I also had my ISO bumped up to 800 and my aperture around f/11 (+/- a few stops depending on the changing light).
When the snow would let up a little, I would turn back to using my speedlites. I was using multiple speedlites to help spread the load so as not to overtax the batteries. The lights were TTL, unmodified, zoomed out to their max. When using the lights my camera was set at 1/200 of a second, around f/8 and an ISO of 100. 1/200 of a second works here because the flash is stopping the action, rather than raw shutter speed. You could also have used Highspeed Sync in this case, but the burden on your flashes would mean long recycle times and possible missed photo opportunities due to that recycle time.
The was coming down so thick at times it was hard to even stop and look at my LCD screen to see how we were doing with the photos. The snow and water made everything on the back of the LCD blurry and I just had to trust in my own knowledge and the TTL system.
I was very happy to see that the 5D Mark III’s auto focus system handled the heavy snow amazingly well. There were a few hiccups where it would focus on an area of falling snow, rather than the intended subject, but for the most part it cut through the white stuff and found the target nearly all of the time.
We spent 4 hours on the ice, in the driving snow, in the freezing cold and, to be honest, I started to envy the jumpers who only had to spend 10 seconds in the 33 degree water before being whisked off to a heated tent. But the experience was fantastic. I actually like being in the snow, and there, in the middle of this expansive frozen lake, I found the setting very beautiful.
It should be mentioned that it was because of my great friends at the Akron-Canton Regional Food Bank that I got the opportunity to come and take photos of this thrilling (chilling?) event. I strongly ask you to support ACRBD and other Food Banks by donating food, time, and money. It’s a great cause!
Benjamin Lehman is a Commercial Advertising, Portrait, Event and Wedding Photographer in the Canton, Northeast Ohio area.
Winter is coming to a close – cold mornings bring snow, all to be washed away by after noon rain, and then draped in snow once again as the sun sets. This transition from winter to spring is often marked by potholed streets edged with slopes of dirty snow, but you can still find some winter-chilled character in landscapes and the people who are interacting with it.