Tuesday, 26 January 2010

Help for Heroes..."If you don't ask, you don't get"

Update: I've had an email from Daniel's mother Debbie telling me that tickets to this event are now completely sold out and so far £92,000 has been raised in Daniel's name for the Help for Heroes Charity. An awesome achievement but let's not stop it there. If you can offer anything to be auctioned or would like to contribute (however small) just drop me a line. Thanks

In December of last year I spend some time with some of the bravest and heroic people I have ever had the privilege and honour to meet. I was at Heathrow Airport at the time and met up with a group of 10 soldiers that had returned from active service out in Afghanistan and were flying onwards to family and friends. Each and everyone of them had suffered horrific injuries and indeed it was an absolute miracle that any of them was still alive. I'll be honest with you and say that I really struggled to fight back the tears when one young guy in particular relayed the story of what had happened to him; I wanted to be strong but clearly the effect of hearing his story showed in my eyes but then he asked me if I was ok...I mean, here's a 19 year old young man infront of me, wheel chair bound having lost a leg, severely damaged right arm and shoulder and loss of sight in one eye asking me if I'm ok...remembering this still leaves me speechless. However, as they put it, they are the lucky ones because they're still alive as we know all too well from what seems like daily news reports, soldiers are losing their lives out there.

The reason for this post is to tell you that this week I received a letter from a woman...a mother of a soldier who had served and died on active service out in Afghanistan. Wendy Ellis Stafford is organising a Charity Ball in Support of Help for Heroes to be held on the 10th July 2010 at the Crowne Plaza Hotel, Marlow, UK which happens to be the anniversary of her son Daniel's passing. Amongst other fund raising activities on the night an auction is to be held where all the winning bids will also go to the Charity. As a photographer I've donated a Photo Shoot to the auction where the highest bidder will join me for a Location Portrait Shoot and also get a framed picture of their choice.

By writing this post I guess I'm really asking 'is there anything you could offer to the auction?' Hair stylists, makeup artists, owners of hotels and so on...would any of the people you know be prepared to offer something to be auctioned?

It would be incredible if we could all help raise a significant amount of money for the Help for Heroes Charity so thanks for reading this and as my late Grandad Fred used to say..."If you don't ask, you don't get"

Speak soon.

Monday, 25 January 2010

Photo Shoot: "Vince the Hat"

Making the most of a bit of 'down time' yesterday I met up with my good friend and fellow photographer Noel Hannan to talk through projects for the coming months including some social events for photographers and one project in particular being a photo shoot at Brooklands which I'll tell you more about nearer the time.

Anyway having 'chewed the cud' for a short while we headed over to meet up with 'Vince the Hat' on his allotment to take some shots for the portfolio. (No prizes as to why Vince got the nick name).

Here's a few shots from the hour or so we spent with him before heading off for a debrief aka 'a pint' and I'll add a post in the next day or two to show a walk through of the shoot including lighting set up etc...


Wednesday, 20 January 2010

Outtakes-The Invisible Black Backdrop Video

Just a quickie...thought I'd share the reason with you why I decided to do a written tutorial of the 'Invisible Black Backdrop' technique as opposed to a video tutorial.


Monday, 18 January 2010

The 'Invisible' Black Backdrop

Over the past few weeks in preparation for the launch of my new 'InSight Photography Workshop' I've been running 'testers' (mini workshops) with groups of photographers to teach a range of lighting techniques and also to get brutal honest feedback.

One of the techniques I've been teaching has become affectionately knows as 'The Invisible Black Backdrop' and without doubt has proven to be one of the most popular techniques amongst attendees. So, this got me thinking...why not write a tutorial, post it on the blog and then encourage those who give it a go to submit their photographs?...I mean, what better way to judge your teaching than by seeing the results achieved by others?

So...what is the 'Invisible Black Backdrop'?
Well as the saying goes 'a picture paints a thousand words' so here's what I mean:

There's no question that having this technique in your 'Photography Toolbag' can save you alot of time, effort and not to mention...money, but it also allows you to add a little extra creativity to your 'shoot' and get photos that you would have normally thought only possible in a studio or with a collapsible backdrop.

So, how do we achieve the 'Black Backdrop'?
Basically what we're looking to do is to tell the camera to capture no light other than what we introduce in the form of a speedlight flash for example. We don't want the camera to pick up any of the ambient/natural light at all, and by doing that we have an instant black backdrop.

Now I just want to add that this technique can be done with any camera that has the ability to be put into Manual Mode and has the ability to trigger off camera flash; so that means SLR's and some pocket cameras such as the Canon G range (G9, G10 and so on...)

There's only '5 Steps' to it...

1. Put your camera into MANUAL MODE. Yes, now we are in control: Shutter Speed, Aperture, iso...from this point onwards we're telling the camera what to do as opposed to the camera telling us and giving us the picture it thinks we want.

2. ISO...Set your camera to it's lowest possible ISO. In laymen's terms, the iso dictates how sensitive to light your camera's sensor is i.e a low number like 200 means it's less sensitive to light whereas a higher number like 1600 means it's more sensitive to light. On a side note the higher the iso number the more noise/grain can be introduced into your photograph, particularly in the shadow areas. Now, seeing as we're looking to make a black backdrop we're not concerned with how sensitive to light the camera is, so we'll be keeping our iso as low as possible; in my case, my Nikon D3 can go down to 100 which means the camera isn't very sensitive to light at all and the final picture will be nice and clean with minimal grain/noise.

3. Shutter Speed...Set your camera to its maximum/optimum sync speed. Basically this is the maximum speed that your camera and flash work together ie any faster than this and your camera's shutter is opening and closing too quickly to allow all the light from your flash to fill the camera's sensor. Common maximum sync speeds are in the 1/200th of a second to 1/250th of a second. Now although we could quite easily make the scene completely black by going to an incredibly high shutter speed like 1/8000th second the problem with this is that the shutter will open and close so quickly that none of the light from the flash will hit the sensor, so we must stick to the maximum sync speed that our cameras and flashes work 'together'.

4. Aperture...The final setting on our cameras is the aperture or basically what 'f' number we should select. Now, knowing roughly what 'f' number to use will become second nature after you've done this a few times so the best thing is to choose say, f/5.6 and go from there. Once you're at this stage take a photo of your subject and see what results you get. The objective here is to see absolutely nothing on your cameras display ie you should see a completely black screen. Now, if you don't and you're seeing a bit of the environment then clearly some natural/ambient light is creeping into the scene. So, all we have to do is close down our 'f' number a little ie if you're getting natural/ambient light into the photo at say f/5.6 then try going to f/8.0 and see what that gives you:

5. Bring in the flash...Now we've 'set the scene' with our camera's and have a completely black screen, the final phase to this technique is to 'bring in the flash'. Where you prefer to position your flash and what modifier you use is entirely down to you depending on the look you want to achieve but I find I get great results using a 60" reflective umbrella. This is a great piece of kit that creates beautiful light but I can also 'close down' to control where I want the light to fall and how much etc...

Again experience of having done this a few times will dictate what power level you put the flash on so until that time just pick a power level ie 1/4 power, then take a shot and see what you get. If you want more light then increase the power of the flash in increments until you get what you want. If the light from the flash is too bright then simply lower the power level in increments.

As a rule, Shutter Speed controls Ambient/Natural light and Aperture controls flash power but in this technique once we've set both the shutter speed and aperture to give us our black background we really need to leave them well alone and control the power of the flash manually by walking over to (or better still having an assistant) adjust it by hand.

Triggering the flash
As this technique uses 'off camera' flash we need to have a way of triggering our flash. I use Pocket Wizards which are the industry standard radio triggers; great pieces if kit, very reliable that work at ridiculous distances, but they do have a price tag to match. However, there are lots of alternative ways to trigger your flash from a simple 'sync lead' which forms a physical connection to your camera and flash (with obvious limitations), an infra red trigger, Nikon users can use their 'Pop-Up' flashes to trigger another flash using the Nikon CLS (Creative Lighting System) and there's even budget radio triggers you can get off ebay that seem to work just fine.

In Summary:
2. LOWEST 'ISO' (200 or lower)
3. MAXIMUM SYNC SPEED (1/250th sec, 1/200th sec etc... depending on your camera)
4. SELECT AN APERTURE (ie f/5.6 as a starting point)

So, that quite simply is all there is to it. Now I've deliberately not gone into too much technical jargon to explain this because I want this to be a 'how to' tutorial as opposed to a 'why' but should you wish to know the ins and outs of the technical side I'll gladly pass on details of books that will cover it all.

A couple of things to note:

1. If you're using this technique indoors be aware that once you introduce flash, the light might end up bouncing off light coloured walls which will then light the room up and so destroy your black backdrop. My advice when using this technique indoors would be to restrict where the light falls by using such modifiers as a Honl Speed Grid or a Lastolite EzyBox, or 'close down' your reflective umbrella.

2. If you're using Speedlights outside to do this technique you may find that if you're doing it in the middle of a bright afternoon your cameras aperture (f number) will have to be set so closed down (eg f/22) that your speedlights wont be powerful enough to light the sensor. The answer here is to find a covered/shady area or better still wait for the sun to ease off a little. This technique can be done in the middle of the afternoon on a bright sunny day but that would call for alot more powerful lighting to be used which in turn would cost alot more money.

So what next?
If you have any questions then post them to the comments section...that way others with the same question will get the answers too. Also let me know how you get on...I'd love to see some of the results you come up with, or any challenges you experience and if you get the urge why not leave a comment...any feedback is great and don't worry, I've got broad shoulders.


>In the meantime, here's a few more examples:

Why not try this technique on 'still life' too as in this photograph I took of a Prototype Microphone whilst shooting at the Imperial College, London

Sunday, 17 January 2010

Photoshop Editing-Heathrow Policeman

Following on with the 'Workshop' theme here's a short video to show how I edit certain photographs using photoshop.

The video itself runs a 2x Speed so that you can see the process in 'quick time' but over the next few days (having been convinced by my buddy A.J. Wood) I'll put together a series of short tutorial videos as well so that you can follow along at a normal pace.

To watch the video in a larger window you could always visit my YouTube Page.


ps> I intend (diary willing) to be posting videos on a fairly regular basis showing some Photography & editing techniques that I regularly use, so if there's anything you'd like to see or would just like to leave a comment, then please feel free to pass it on.

Sunday, 3 January 2010

More iPhone Applications for Photographers

Anyone who knows me is more than aware of how much I love using my iPhone to take photographs on an almost daily basis and with the ever growing number of applications being made available through the iTunes App Store editing and sharing them gets easier and easier. Two applications that I've been getting alot of use out of lately are Photoshop.com and Strobox.

Photoshop.com Mobile as the name suggests is Adobe's contribution to editing applications for mobile phones and with a price tag of 'FREE" it's a must have.

As you'd expect it's an incredibly easy App to use offering all manner of editing tools such as Exposure, Contrast, Soft Focus and a number of 'one click' Special Effects. Be warned though...it's addictive. You can download it direct from the iTunes App Store here.

* To give you an idea of the kind of editing you can do with Photoshop.com Mobile here's a 'before' & 'after' photograph I took using my iPhone of the nose cone of Concorde which took about a minute.

Strobox is as it says, an App for sharing Lighting Diagrams.

For regular followers of this blog and for those who've attended some of the InSight Workshop 'Testers' over the past few weeks I'm sure will agree that my drawing skills leave alot to be desired when it comes to lighting diagrams, so this great little App has been very well received. An incredibly easy App to use, you can create lighting diagrams by placing all sorts of objects (camera, softboxes, people and so on ...) and save them to show others or even email them all from within the App itself and again with a price tag of 'FREE' for any photographers out there who use lighting diagrams it's a must. You can download a copy from the iTunes App Store by clicking here.

Enjoy ;o)

Friday, 1 January 2010

Goodbye 2009; Hello 2010...

Well that's it folks...as we say goodbye to 2009 we venture into a new decade with the arrival of 2010. So, how was your year? Did you manage to fit everything in? I've said it before on the blog more than once but are the years going by faster or what? Or is that I've got less friction as 'up top' thins out just that little bit more??

Anyway, 2009 has been quite an eventful year in both a personal and business sense so I thought I'd take this chance to write a few lines and mention just a few things from the past 12 months:

Zack Arias - OneLight Workshop
* During November I got the opportunity to fly out to Atlanta, USA to spend time with Zack Arias on his OneLight Workshop.

Zack is an amazing 'teacher' who just keeps on going until you can take no more. I think we finished just before 2am on the final day having been at it from 9.30am the previous morning; a truly unforgettable experience for a whole host of reasons not least for the generosity of Zack & his wife Meghan.

Visionmongers by David DuChemin
Just had to mention this book! This is the bible of 'how to' when it comes to running a photography business. Seriously I could go on and on, even dedicate a entire blog entry to this book but all I will say is that if I had to throw out all the business related material I have and could only keep one...this would be it! Check it out here on Amazon.

Most memorable Photo Shoot of 2009:
Hands down this has to be the 'Trash(ish) the Dress' Project with Dave & Michelle Caton-Richards which ended with Michelle waist high in the River Thames wearing her Wedding Dress on a freezing, and I mean freezing cold November afternoon. If you missed it you can see some of the photos and a 'behind the scenes' video by clicking here.

Other Stuff:
Moving into 2010 there's alot of 'stuff' in the pipleine. I'm real excited to be working with San Francisco, USA based 'LiveBooks' who are designing us a brand new website.

One of the big learning points for me during 2009 has been not to 'skimp' out when it comes to a website and to go to the professionals.Without doubt there have been a few missed opportunities during the past 12 months because of having a website that just wasn't 'working' for me as it should have been. Thankfully that's now being rectified so I'm real excited to see how the new site will be received. Talking of the 'web' we've also got a completely new blog coming in the near future, so I'll be sure to keep you posted re the progress there.

InSight Workshop
We're working hard behind the scenes on the new Workshop which I plan to launch this Spring.

We've already run a couple of testers with a number of photographers for honest feedback, and this has been incredibly useful. I've got another couple more testers running this month and then we'll be working on finalising content, workbook, locations etc...

In conjunction with the Workshop I plan on getting stuck into doing more videos alternating between photography tips/techniques that I use and editing techniques using Photoshop / Lightroom. I want to keep the videos short (3 minutes-ish) so that they cover one quick tip on a regular basis. You can check out some of the videos we've already published on my YouTube Page by visiting http://www.youtube.com/glyndewis Oh, and we're also looking at starting a newsletter to keep you informed on what's going on, tips & techniques and so on, but I'll let you know more about that at a later stage.

So we've plenty to be getting on with and I'm guessing there's going to be quite a few late nights coming my way but hey what's the worst that could happen? ... lose my hair?

What have you got planned for the new decade and what are you going to be working on? Dare I ask what your 'New Year Resolutions' are? I'd love to hear so feel free to post a comment, drop me an email or get in touch through FaceBook or Twitter.

Happy New Year & Thankyou for your friendship and support during 2009

  © Blogger templates Brooklyn by Ourblogtemplates.com 2008

Back to TOP