Sunday, February 28, 2010

52 Variations - Variation Nine

Sweet Dreams

Kids like sleep. There is nothing new about that, and my son is no exception. So when thinking about this week's shoot I figured why not capture a bit of sleep.

The idea was to get the light of a cracked door going across my son's bed, illuminating his face. In addition the alarm clock would illuminate the side of his pillow to ad a bit to the shot. Below is what we ended up with.

52 Variations - Variation Nine - Sweet Dreams

Of course my son's door is not in a position to cast light across the bed, nor is the light from the hall dependable enough to use. Further his alarm clock does not put off enough of a glow to get any light on his pillow. So, off to create light I went. How fun, after all, photography is about painting with light.

We tried a lot of poses, under covers, on top of covers, etc. But in the end my son had the idea that worked best. He has this tendency of sleeping up side down on his bed. No matter what end he falls asleep on he ends up with his feet on his pillow and his had at the foot of the bed. It is comical and wonderful all at the same time.

To achieve the door cracked open affect I took my 580 EXII gelled it with a 1/2 CTO, and put a snoot on it. As you can imagine though, the light was not nearly narrow enough. So gaffers tape came to the rescue. With two pieces I created a narrow, almost touching slit, on the end of the snoot. This had the desired effect of creating a crack of light across the bed. Very fun, I was so proud of myself...yes I amuse easily.

The alarm clock glow was straight forward as well. I put a 430 EX with a full blue gel and a 1/8 grid facing his pillow. The light was the right shape and density (although I keep thinking I should have used green) but it covered too much of the bed. I needed to narrow it down. To the rescue came gaffers tape yet again. I used it to gobo part of the grid, resulting the light illuminating what I wanted. Easy peasy, lemon squeezy as my son says.

Below is a quick shot of the setup. (Yes, that is a roll of gaffers tape on the floor, I do love that stuff.)

52 Variations - Variation Nine - Setup

Let me know what you think, does the affect of partial lighting come across, do you see the light from the alarm clock?


As always go to the Flickr set for all project pictures by Clicking Here. You can also find a full explanation of the project along with an index of the shots by Clicking Here.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

52 Variations - Variation Eight

Light Art

It has been a busy weekend so I thought we would have a little fun today. I've seen many photographs where the subject uses a flashlight to write or draw in the shot. Telling my son about it, he was excited by the idea so I figured why not, lets have some fun.

52 Variations - Variation 8 - Light Art a

Of course the idea was simple. Light him with strobes at the beginning of a long exposure and let him draw for the remainder. The above was a 6 second exposure lit by two flashes at full power. A 580 EXII camera right shooting through an umbrella as the main light and a 430 EX camera left shooting into a reflective umbrella. Worked well I think. Exposed him just enough that he could move after the flash and draw what ever he wanted without losing any sharpness. I would like to note that the exposure of the background came as a result of the 6 second exposure. Had there been a somewhat normal shutter speed the background would have been black as in some of my previous posts. Thats what ya get when using F22.

Of the more than 100 shots we did the above was my favorite as it captures his personality the most. Yes, he was pretending that he was waving a sword. Boys will be boys after all. The light pattern is nothing but squiggles but I love it just the same. It is a aspect of his personality, that is all I need. :-)

I mentioned the lighting above but do want to make one comment about the flashlight. To do this you need nothing special, we did ours with a $2 LED light from Home Depot. The only modification to it was to toss some green gel on the end so as to get the green color to light, nothing special. Below is a quick setup pic. As always, please excuse my messy basement.

52 Variations - Variation 8 - Light Art - Setup

Oh, and yes, that thing in the foreground is my tripod. There is no way I could have held the camera still for 6 seconds otherwise.

A bit of a diversion is in order. We were having such a good time that we dragged my wife over and started playing around with her and the light as well. She drew on Gustavo and he did the same to her. Lets just let it be said that clown hats were in order. In tribute to her participation below is one her contributions where she drew my son's nickname with light. Very fun in my opinion. In case you have trouble reading it, the word is "Nene". It is a Spanish language slang for little boy. Something we have called my son since was born.

52 Variations - Variation 8 - Light Art b

So what does everyone think?


As always go to the Flickr set for all project pictures by Clicking Here. You can also find a full explanation of the project along with an index of the shots by Clicking Here.

Monday, February 15, 2010

52 Variations - Variation Seven

At Play

God smiles when his children are at play...or so the saying goes.

I had an elaborate shot planned for this week, one you will have to wait for. While I was setting up for the shoot, I looked over to see my son playing with a paper dragon we picked up at the Chicago Chinese New Year parade yesterday. Below is the result and for obvious reasons put my planned shoot on hold.

52 Variations - Variation Seven - At Play

I became distracted watching him, it was fascinating. He was having such a good time, making growling noises and moving the dragon as he had seen it moved the day before. It was one of those times that remind me why I love being a parent. His joy brought me joy.

Of course I had to take some pictures. I only had the softbox up with my 580 EXII in it at 1/32 power. So I turned it toward him and snapped away not really knowing how things would turn out. Luckily it was an okay, or should I say lucky exposure. Sure fill light would have helped but I did not want to ruin the moment. The softbox going off was distraction enough.

Anyway, I hope you enjoy the shot as much as I do. There is nothing else to really tell, no setup shot or complex problem to solve as there was last week. I needed to take you into a happy parenting moment, I hope you enjoyed this brief journey.


As always go to the Flickr set for all project pictures by Clicking Here. You can also find a full explanation of the project along with an index of the shots by Clicking Here.

Monday, February 8, 2010

52 Variations - Variation Six


My son, like so many children is a huge Star Wars fan. Its not the Star Wars of my youth, but fun just the same. So with that interest my son asked that I make him look like a Jedi in this week's shot. I said, "sure, why not" he has a couple toy Lightsabers, how hard could it be. Boy I can be dense sometimes.

I'll get to the how we did it bit a little later. Below is what we ended up with. Gustavo holding a Lightsaber while wearing his hooded Jedi robe.

52 Variations - Variation Six - Jedi

Not too bad in the end, there are a lot of things I would change later but I think it gets the general theme of Jedi with a Lightsaber across to the view.

However, as you would expect, the Lightsaber turned out to be a huge issue. It ends up that the toy Lightsabers do not generate any where near the amount of light needed. So I looked at taking the toy apart so I could attach a speedlight to the bottom of the colored tube. I knew that would be enough light. The problem was that my son still wanted his toy and I would have destroyed it to do what I want. I wanted my son to be happy and thus could not destroy the toy, what to do...what to do....

I was stumped. At one point I thought the shoot was scrapped and I would need to find another idea for this week. Of course, I had no other ideas for which I was prepared. I thought at one point I would not meet my goal for a shot this week.

Staring at the 430 EX sitting on my desk an idea suddenly came to me. I had a sheet of 1/2 green gel somewhere. I could wrap the end of the 430 EX and effectively turn it into a Lightsaber. So I found the gel and wrapped the 430 EX creating a tube on top of the strobe. It looked ok, but when held by my son's face it over-exposed his skin resulting in an unusable shot. Also, the tube of the Lightsaber was very transparent, not giving it the feel of solid light. More road blocks, what to do...what to do?

Well, my 9 year-old found the solution. What a creative child.

Gustavo thinks gaffers tap is the greatest thing ever. For those of you that don't use gaffers tape I suggest getting some. Think of it as duct tape that is easy to remove, and it was what I used to attach the gel to the flash and create a cap for the end of the gel tube. Gustavo noticed that the light at the top of our home made Lightsaber was stronger than in the main part of the tube. His suggestion, use more gaffers tape. Brilliant!!!!

Placing gaffers tape along the back and part of the side of the tube there was the dual effect of creating a reflector and gobo for the light. The tube took on a more solid appearance while keeping some the strongest light off my son's face. What a bright kid, no pun intended. :-) In the end we had a 430 EX (aka: Lightsaber) with a 1/2 green gel at 1/64th power as our main light

Once this problem was solved I just had to setup the fill light. A reflector would not work as out Lightsaber did not send off enough light to reflect. We ended up using a 580 EXII at 1/32nd power just a tad to camera right with a 1/2 green gel and a 1/8 grid to fill in the face. Worked just fine and kept the look of the glow from the Lightsaber going.

Below is a quick setup shot. Notice the speedlight based Lightsaber in my son's hand. Yes, that is a radio trigger hanging from the speedlight. And yes, he is wearing a sweatshirt as his Jedi robe. Its the best thing I could think of. :-)

52 Variations - Variation Six - Jedi Setup

So what does everyone think? Most importantly, and as always, did we achieve the goal, does he look like a Jedi?


As always go to the Flickr set for all project pictures by Clicking Here. You can also find a full explanation of the project along with an index of the shots by Clicking Here.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Protective Puppy

In Ansel Adams' Biography (CLICK HERE to see it on Amazon) he states how he liked the proliferation of cameras to the general public. He said that these cameras made it possible for moments in time to be frozen, moments that would not be captured otherwise. I've always liked this philosophy and tried to subscribe to the moments in time when ever I can.

The other day my son was home sick from school. It was one of those illnesses where he was sick enough to not go to school but not sick enough to have a bad day. Fortunately I work from home and was able to keep an eye on him. When an hour or so had past and I had not heard any noise from him upstairs I assumed he had fallen asleep on the sofa. So I went up to check and what I found was one of the moments in time Ansel Adams spoke of.

Protective Puppy

We have two dogs. A male German Shepherd and a Female Golden Retriever. The female is very attached to my son and takes it upon herself to protect him when ever possible. Needless to say, when he is sick the instinct to protect goes into over-drive, hence the image above. I count myself lucky that I had left my camera bag on a nearby table and was able to get the above before the delicate balance was ruined and both woke up. Which of course they did when they heard the sound of camera.

Anyway, I wanted to share this as I thought everyone might like it and have similar stories to share. Let me know any experiences like this you might have. I would love to hear them.

Monday, February 1, 2010

52 Variations - Variation Five

Nerf Warrior

Let me start out by saying that my son is one of the gentlest children I have ever met. That is not just me, a proud father saying that, it is a common comment about him. That he is gentle to all things, almost to the point of harming himself so another won't be.

So it was a surprise to me when discussing this week's project shot when he said he wanted to show off his Nerf Dart side. I knew what he meant, he takes on a different attitude when playing Nerf Darts. He is so focused on eliminating his opponent it is amazing. By the way, that opponent is usually me and I'm a large enough target which means he rarely misses.

With the above in mind we decided to shoot him as a Nerf Warrior, someone intimidating and bent on victory. Below is our attempt at that. You will have to let me know if we were successful.

While executing the shot was not difficult, strobist info to come later, choosing a shot was hard. I ended up with two shots that have different feels to them. One was my favorite and one was my son's favorite. Below are the shots with a brief description as to why each of us chose them.

Shot #1:

Gustavo's pick because it made him look tough. In case you are wondering, and pick up on it a bit, yes he was growling when I took the picture. It was a cute growl you had to be there though.

52 Variations - Variation Five a - Nerf Warrior

Shot #2:

My pick because it shows a bit of the child he is while bringing out how serious he is about the game. I like how it reinforces his age. It could be his left hand or his face, I'm not sure, but it makes the capture for me.

52 Variations - Variation Five b - Nerf Warrior

What does everyone think? Which is the best and why?

Now on to the boring strobist stuff...

I was going for some dramatic lighting which I achieved using two speedlights. A 580 EXII above to camera right at 1/4 power with a 1/2 CTO gel and a 5" snoot to focus the light while giving some hard shadows. The second was a 430 EX level to his face and a touch to camera left at 1/2 power with another 1/2 CTO gel and a 1/8 grid to soften its shadows and act as fill and directional light at the same time. Below is the setup shot.

52 Variations - Variation Five - Nerf Warrior Setup

Yes, he was sitting through the shoot. It took me a while to get things how I wanted them so I let him sit so as to not tire him out. I just got on my stomach while taking the pics. Thank goodness the dogs were outside or I would have been licked to death.

So what does everyone think? Which capture is best and why? Most importantly, did we achieve the goal, does he look like a Nerf Warrior?


As always go to the Flickr set for all project pictures by Clicking Here. You can also find a full explanation of the project along with an index of the shots by Clicking Here.