Archive for April, 2010

Lighting Small Things in a Big Way

Friday, April 23rd, 2010

Silicon Carbide

Way back in grade 4 a classmate brought in a very large unusual rock for show and tell. It was very unique in that it had a black iridescent sheen with multifaceted patterns and angles. The thing was so big he shared a piece of it with each student to keep. I held on to it for a very long time as it looked really cool, and later came to find out it was a man-made rock called “Silicon Carbide”. One night while working at a photography retail store (when it was very slow) I brought it in to photograph it.

A lot of times when people use macro lenses they forget about proper lighting as they are so hung up on the “seeing small things large” aspect. Although it pretty much goes unsaid, I’m going to say it. It’s all about the light. This thing is near black, and the funky colours can only be seen when light reflects off the surface at a particular angle. And this thing had so many angles on it.

But first, placement. After inspecting the piece I decided to use the largest flat area as the “face”. I created a quick and basic ad-hoc “studio” out of a sheet of 8×10” glass from a picture frame as the reflective base and propped the large white box that the frame comes in up as the background. Under the glass sheet I placed a black cardboard sheet in order to create a strong solid reflection.

Equipment I used was a Nikon D200 with 105mm f/2.8 VR lens all mounted to a Velbon Sherpa tripod. Whenever possible I utilize a tripod to open up my creative possibilities with deep depth of field though the use of small apertures and troubleshooting composition and lighting issues. Also, I am guaranteed a sharp image which is always welcome.

You can see the progression of images/composition/lighting/white balance with this Lightroom screenshot:

Silicon Carbide Lightroom

Ok, so back to the light. I used 3 portable Nikon speedlights in various ways, some being fired by the built-in flash of the Nikon D200’s Creative Lighting System (CLS).

At first, I lit the face of the rock with a top-down speedlight (frames #16/17).

Silicon Carbide

Then, adding an edge light for separation (frame #18), which was later changed to blue with the use of a coloured gel.

Silicon Carbide

Finally, the background light was used (Frame #19 onward). Final image (Frame #25): f/32 13 sec. ISO 100

Silicon Carbide

Also, the general colour tone of the image was easily modified by setting the White Balance (WB) manually, and adjusting it warmer or cooler. The final image has a WB setting of 4700 °K shot in 12-bit RAW. The magenta/green sheen & reflections are naturally occurring colours, not Photoshop.

Flash layout:

1st flash: Hand held Nikon SB-800 using modeling light for 3 seconds directly above rock through sheet of white paper towel for diffusion (can be seen camera left in overall shot). The paper towel was used to create a large broad light source from the small specular flash unit. This broad light then easily and evenly spreads across the face of the rock to show its unique “brain like” pattern.

2nd flash: Nikon SB-800 1/8th power w/ blue gel camera right to add accent strip light and colour separation.

3rd flash: Nikon SB-600 zoomed to 105mm fired directly onto white cardboard box (background) camera left on tripod fired at 1/2 power. Varying the power of this flash I can independently control the brightness of the background.

Silicon Carbide Flash Layout

Canadian Maple Farm Stock Photos

Thursday, April 22nd, 2010

The snow has thankfully receded and with spring the sap starts flowing in the maple trees. Sugar bushes always proved for great lens fodder and this year a trip to Fulton’s Pancake House in Pakenham (20 min. West of Ottawa) was no different. These images are all available for personal use, commercial licensing, or for editorial publication.

 Taffy Girl

Maple Sticks

Horse Drawn Sleigh

Work Horse

In previous years I had visited Little Cataraqui Creek Conservation Area for their Maple Madness in Kingston, Ontario.

Traditional Maple Syrup

Maple Syrup Bucket


Maple Syrup Pancakes

The Almost Friday Show Intro Video

Friday, April 9th, 2010

Last month local Ottawa artist and friend Quinn Brown of From The Wall Photography asked for a helping hand in creating an intro sequence for his great weekly video podcast “The Almost Friday Show ” with fellow geeks Scott Champagne, Sam Lo, Dave Russell and Sean Horn. You can view the intro video by clicking on Episode 6 or newer.

It was a fun photo shoot, with the key piece of equipment being a Nikon D300 DSLR w/ Sigma 18-50mm f/2.8 lens set on continuous drive mode (low) at 3fps. Originally we had planned on using several off camera flash units to light the scene, but found they could not keep up with the high rate of fire. So thinking on our feet we switched gears and used a Nikon SB-800 Flash unit set manually to 1/16th power on the camera hotshoe in order to add consistent fill light in addition to the continuous studio lights. Because we were also incorporating available continuous light I set the camera to manual exposure and used a longer shutter speed (1/15th sec.) with an aperture of f/5 (to give enough Depth of Field to the images). ISO was set to 200 for cleanest image quality.

Quinn edited in the music and titles, and was very happy with how the final sequence turned out. Be sure to regularly check for new episodes of “The Almost Friday Show” to get your fill of tech news and geek talk.

Ottawa Engagement Portrait Session

Thursday, April 8th, 2010

Earlier this year on Feb. 14th (Valentine’s Day) I had the pleasure of photographing engaged couple Marc-André Hurtubise and Marguerite Paquette from Sudbury, Ont. I am thankful they made the 6hr trip down from Northern Ontario to be photographed for their engagement portrait session and although the day was cold and windy, we were able to pull of some striking images together during Ottawa’s annual Winterlude festival. This August I will be returning the 6hr favour by travelling to Sudbury to photograph their wedding.

Rideau Canal Skateway

Canal Embrace

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