I hope you�ve been out taking lots of photographs this month. With all the snow and crazy weather here in the Northwest USA, I�ve been out trying to take some pics to capture the chaos! We�ve been inundated by lots of storms over the last few months and I�m very ready for Spring to come in like a lamb.
I�m leaving tomorrow to lead photography workshops with the Nikonians (www.nikonians.org) down in San Francisco and Los Angeles. It will be a fun couple of weeks and I�m looking forward to meeting up with the fine folks at Samy�s Camera in Hollywood, CA (www.samys.com). They always treat us well and are generous with their time and resources. If you ever get a chance to stop by their store, please do so!
The week after we return from California, we have two workshops in Seattle. The first, Digital Workflow on 2/16/07 still has some seats remaining. The second, D80/D70 on 2/17/07 is completely sold out!
Our eBook on the Nikon Wireless flash system continues to sell very well and we are grateful for the accolades we�ve received so far. People are writing every day talking about the book and how it has helped them unlock their creative potential with the SB-800 and SB-600 wireless flash systems. Thank you for your kind and generous comments. You can find the book here: www.outthereimages.com/publishing.html.
We have a couple of new book titles in the works and I�m hoping to have the next one ready to go within the next two months. I wish I could write and format and edit faster because I have more topics than I know what to do with. These things take too much time!
Anyways, onto the newsletter. This month is packed with great information on black and white conversion, flash brackets and the R1C1 wireless macro flash system!
January GOAL Assignment: Thinking in Black and White
Last month, I asked you to go out and take some photographs with the intention of converting them to black and white. When you take pictures with a B&W print in mind as your final product, you should �see� the scene a little differently than just a color rendition. Black and white photography is all about tonal reproduction and not necessarily about color reproduction.
Tonal reproduction means that we are generally concerned with the brightness, or reflectance, of the object you are photographing. In color photography, you can use both tone and color to separate elements of the scene. In B&W photography, you only have tonality to separate elements.
Therefore, it is imperative that you understand which colors have the same reflectance values and which colors have different reflectance values. For example, the color red is almost the same brightness as the color green. If you do a black and white conversion of a red rose and green grass, the resulting image won�t have very much contrast! Look at the example here of some trees in the Olympic National Park forest. The color image is vibrant and alive because we can use color to separate elements of the picture. The black and white conversion is a bit drab because the browns aren�t that much different in tonality than the greens. The resulting image is a bit drab!
So, the key to great black and white conversion begins in the camera when you capture your image. Your job as a photographer is to find contrasting elements in the photograph that will look good when later converted to black and white. For example, find a green leaf in front of a dark background or white clouds against a blue sky. Black and white is a great place for high contrast images.
One of the easiest ways to understand brightness of an image is to use your camera�s spot meter and set your camera to �Manual� exposure mode. Point your camera�s spot meter at different parts of the image and pay attention to the different exposure values. Green grass and red flowers will have the same exposure value. These would be �bad� for a black and white conversion. However, a yellow flower in front of a shady area has at least a 3 ~ 4 stop difference between their exposure values. This would be �good� for B&W conversion. Keep in mind however that my �good� could be your �bad�, so just take these as a general approach.
In this digital age, converting images to black and white with software has become easier than ever. It is amazing to me that just about every software package out there has a B&W conversion tool available. Here are some ideas and examples for converting your images to black and white.
Photoshop Channel Mixer
Perhaps the best known method for black and white conversion is using Photoshop Channel Mixer. There are a couple ways to apply access the channel mixer tool. First is to go to the menu and choose Image –> Adjustments –> Channel Mixer. The second is to add a Channel Mixer adjustment layer from your �layers� palette.
Once the channel mixer dialog window is open, you then go about turning the photo into black and white by clicking on the �monochrome� box. Next, you make changes to the photograph by moving the RGB (Red, Green, Blue) sliders until you are happy with the results. The general consensus is that you want the resulting totals to be equal to 100%. However, I break this rule all the time. I�ll go below 100% to make the image darker or above 100% to brighten it up a bit. The great thing about this tool is that it allows you to just play around until you�re happy with the results. Look at the photos to the left of the green leaf adjusted with the channel mixer tool.
One of my favorite Photoshop plug-in is from Alien Skin, named �Exposure� (www.alienskin.com). This plug-in gives you an incredible amount of control when converting your images to black and white. The program�s specialty is how it allows you to emulate specific film types and then configure the results to your liking.
When I used to shoot film, one of my favorite Black and White emulsions was T-Max 100. I liked the contrast and overall look of the film. Therefore, I like to use Alien Skin Exposure to simulate that T-Max look I had before.
The program works similar to other filters in Photoshop and the interface is fairly straight forward. The program includes the ability to change the tonal curve and it has a built-in channel mixer function. Additionally, you can add grain/texture as well as a myriad of other great effects.
Photoshop Elements 5.0
For the money, I can�t imagine a better program! It is amazing to me that Adobe provides such a powerful program for just $69. I tell people all the time to start out with Photoshop Elements and then, once you determine you are ready for more power, plunk down the $650 and buy the full version of Photoshop CS3.
Elements has a great black and white conversion tool built-in. You get to the B&W tool from the menus by clicking Enhance –> Convert to Black and White (Alt+Ctrl+B). The interface is easy to use and shows a great preview of the choice you made. Additionally, Photoshop Elements has all kinds of ways to spruce up your image afterwards. For example, I added a sloppy border to the image from a big selection of border choices.
Picasa is a free program from Google (http://picasa.google.com/) that has a lot of easy and quick photo editing solutions built right into the program. While Picasa isn�t a �professional� tool, I�m the first to say that it is a lot of fun. I�ve been using non-professional tools my entire career and find that it is frequently more fun to play around with the �click and go� programs than it is to futz around in Photoshop until I�m blue in the face!
Picasa has a bunch of black and white conversions such as B&W, Warmify, Tint, Sepia, Soft Focus, Filtered B&W. The interface couldn�t be simpler to use and I can get some results in Picasa faster than I can get in Photoshop. Try it and I know you�ll like it.
Nikon Capture NX
Nikon Capture NX (www.capturenx.com) has become an essential tool in my digital process just because of the power it affords me when working on digital files. I thoroughly enjoy using it for black and white conversions as it has a few ways to accomplish the conversion. The standard B&W conversion method is by using the �Black and White� conversion dialog. This is pretty ingenious and allows you to choose a filter color for the conversion just like we did back in the film days. We�d use a yellow, orange or red filter to bias the film to record only different colors of the color spectrum. I used a red filter on this image of the green leaf to increase the contrast. Beautiful!
Capture NX also has a �Photo Effects� tool that allows black and white conversion using a channel mixer-like interface.
February GOAL Assignment: Show the Motion
Most of the time as photographers, we are doing everything possible to freeze motion in our pictures. We like them to be sharp and crisp to show detail. However, some of the most creative photographs we can take are those that creatively show motion by incorporating blur.
Your GOAL assignment this month is to take some blurry photos on purpose. I would like you to try a few things such as:
1. Panning with a moving subject (car, bike, bird)
2. Moving your camera (rotating, twisting)
3. Zooming your lens during exposure
4. Incorporating blur from a plant blowing in the wind
5. Using slow sync flash
In next month�s newsletter, I�ll include some tips and tricks for great motion photography.
Photo Tips: Flash brackets.
I receive quite a few questions every month on flash brackets from photographers wondering how to exactly use them. Most of the questions revolve around sincere frustration that stems from folks who bought a bracket and never really got it working properly. Therefore I thought I�d write an article explaining their usage, different brands, types, and considerations you should take into account when buying one.
First of all, the general purpose of a flash bracket is to move the flash away from the camera body. Most professional photographers know that on-camera flash will generally result in a fairly �flat� photo. By flat, I mean that there is no modeling or shadowing on the subject. We generally strive to move the flash off the camera so we can create depth and dimension on the subject.
This is all well and good, however, there are many times in our photography that it just doesn�t make sense to run around with a bunch of light stands and umbrellas that are off camera. Weddings and events are typical places where you want to be free of the bonds of lighting systems and would like to have a portable lighting system attached to your camera.
A second thing that flash brackets do is to help eliminate shadows behind the subject when they are positioned near a wall. If you take a vertical photo with on-camera flash, you typically create harsh shadows on the wall behind your photo subject. These shadows are generally considered bad. Funny isn�t it? A shadow on the person�s face is good but a shadow on the wall is bad. Hmm.
So, the flash bracket does three things. First, it gets the flash away from the camera body to create modeling on the subject�s face. Second, it keeps the flash above the camera body so the shadow falls down behind the subject (the shadow is still there, it�s just hidden behind the person). Third, it helps prevent red-eye by moving the flash away from the lens. There are probably lots of other things flash brackets are good for (such as swatting at flies), but I only want to cover the photographic uses.
Now that you understand the basic reasons to use a flash bracket, let�s look at different types of flash brackets. There are generally three types:
– Side flash mount
– A bracket that rotates the flash
– A bracket that rotates the camera
A side mount flash bracket allows you to get nice modeling effect on the subject, but doesn�t solve the issue of shadows on the back wall. If you are photographing people/objects in the outdoors, then a side-mount bracket will work just fine because there aren�t walls to cast a shadow on.
A flash rotating bracket is used for indoor event photography where you want the shadows to fall behind and below the subject. This type of bracket flips the flash itself from horizontal to vertical when you change the orientation of your camera. I like these types of brackets because they are very light weight. They generally use just a simple bolt as a pivot. The drawback to a system like this is that it doesn�t securely hold your flash in a single position. The �flip� portion of the bracket tends to be loose. I use the Stroboframe Quickflip model (www.tiffen.com/Stroboframe_quickflip_page.htm) and have chosen it for its light weight rather than for its perfect functionality. If I photograph with my D2X, a 70-200 f2.8 lens, a flash and a bracket, then the whole contraption weights more than a Sherman tank! Ouch.
I think the very best brackets you can buy are the ones that rotate the camera rather than the flash. These keep the flash in the top position at all times, but allow you to spin the camera around the lens axis when you want to shoot vertical compositions. The upside is simple operation but the downside is weight. These types of systems require a ball-bearing mechanism or 4-bar linkage to rotate the camera.
Most of the time, you can�t just buy a bracket and then start using it immediately. There are probably some other parts you need to buy before the bracket will work with your system. Some brackets are set up with a �cold shoe� that allows you to just place your flash in the shoe. The problem with this is that you can�t connect a TTL cable between your flash and your camera. The TTL cable generally has a threaded nut on the bottom of it that accepts a �� x 20 bolt. Therefore, you�ll have to find a wing nut or other type of �� x 20 bolt to mount the TTL cable onto the bracket. Other brackets already come equipped with the screw, so you won�t have to worry about finding your own parts.
The next thing that comes into play is which side should you mount the handle of the bracket. For example, the Stroboframe Quickflip gives you the choice of mounting the bracket on the left of the camera or the right of the camera. I choose to always mount the bracket handle on the left of the camera so that I can hold the system with two hands while shooting. This also allows me to dangle the system at my side when I�m not photographing. I can hold the bracket in my left hand or the camera in my right hand, sharing the load during a photo event so that I don�t strain one arm over the other.
Finally, you will probably want to consider which TTL cable you want to use between the flash and the camera. I use an old SC-17 for my Nikon system and it works just fine. However, the cable is too long, so I have to wrap it around the handle of my bracket. There are a few companies out there that will shorten your cables for you, however if you are good with tools, you can do it yourself very easily. I choose to keep my cable long so I can use it for other purposes.
If you are looking to buy a bracket, then I highly recommend Custom Brackets (www.custombrackets.com). They make the best flash brackets I have ever seen. I�ve met the owner down at the PMA show and was impressed with his friendliness and honesty. His company makes a great product! I recommend the QRS-H2 model for a camera-rotation model and the CB Junior for a light weight system.
Product Overview: Nikon Wireless R1C1 kit.
Nikon�s wireless TTL flash system has revolutionized our concept of flash photography by making it possible to have a traveling studio system that is light weight and portable. I�ve been using the Nikon CLS (Creative Lighting System) for a few years now and have grown to enjoy the flexibility and easy with which I can quickly set up lights, take the picture and then move on. My entire traveling light kit often times fits inside a small duffel bag!
About a year ago, Nikon started selling the R1C1 macro lighting kit and I was immediately intrigued. However, it wasn�t until a month ago when I finally purchased it for my own use. The R1C1 kit comes in a black box that is reminiscent of the Japanese Bento Box! It has little compartments for all the gizmos that ship with the kit. The first time you unpack it is like finding a box of treasure. Just the process of unpacking it is a lot of fun!
The R1C1 kit includes a bevy of products aimed at helping you create beautiful macro photographs. First, it includes the SU-800 wireless commander. This replaces your SB-800 commander flash or your camera�s pop-up commander flash. The SU-800 can only work as a commander unit as it doesn�t output visible light. It isn�t really a �flash� because it only outputs IR light signals for triggering the remote flash.
Second, the kit ships with two SB-R200 flashes. These are very small remote flashes that can be placed just about anywhere around your photo subject. They can mount on a ring directly to the lens or they can mount on small �feet� to be placed near the subject. These flashes can also be set on light stands or tripods for easy placement.
Third, the kit includes all kinds of lighting modifiers such as gels, a scrim clamp, a diffusion panel and miniature soft boxes for the SB-R200 flashes. Coming up with a creative lighting setup is simple and quick.
The kit is very well thought out and opens up a myriad of creative possibilities. Operation of the system is very easy. You simply turn the dials on the remote flashes to the correct channel/group. I wish all the other Nikon flashes were this easy to operate. The SU-800 is simple to use too. Just press the SEL button to make changes to each group/channel and then press the MODE and up/down buttons to change how the remote flashes are set for power.
While the R1C1�s purpose is shooting macro subjects, I have enjoyed using for all kinds of photography. I love using the SU-800 controller as a CLS controller for my �studio� SB-800 and SB-600 lights. Since the SU-800 is so much smaller than a SB-800, my camera weighs less and is easier to pack around. At the same time, the little SB-R200 flashes are great for adding a little kick to a portrait photograph or backlighting to an outdoor scenic.
At around $650, the R1C1 isn�t cheap, however, I love using it and it won�t take long for it to pay for itself with the new photographs I create. Another additional expense derives from the fact that the R1C1 uses CR123 lithium batteries. If you buy non-rechargeable CR-123s, they cost about $3~$7 each! I couldn�t stomach spending that much money every time I wanted to change batteries, so I found some rechargeable Lithiums at Thomas Distributing (www.thomasdistributing.com) for $10 each.
Look for more example photos, real world usage and updates on the R1C1 in future newsletter editions.
Digital workflow is on everybody�s mind right now and I can�t recommend this class enough. The next Digital Workflow Workshops is scheduled for February 16th, 2007. This workshop covers topics that every digital photographer struggles with: questions such as how to manage those thousands of digital photos, how to profile and calibrate your system and how to automate your workflow so you don’t spend so much time at your computer. This workshop provides great “nuts and bolts” tutorials in a hands-on environment to make sure you learn the topics. We�ll be using programs such as iView Media Pro, Photoshop Bridge/Browser and many other programs to manage our digital assets. I guarantee you’ll enjoy this day of learning. Go here for more details: www.outthereimages.com/digital_workflow.html
Nikon iTTL Flash Workshops
These are some of our most popular workshops and we�ve set up a few of them for 2007. If you’ve ever been frustrated trying to get your flash photography to look natural, then you need to attend this workshop. We spend all day learning the ins and outs of the Nikon’s SB600 and SB800 flashes. You’ll never again have to struggle with these flashes. More info at: www.outthereimages.com/ittl_workshop.html
We are going to be offering topics such as D80/D70, D2X, D200, Nikon Capture NX and Nikon iTTL wireless flash through the www.nikonians.org. We�ll be running them in cities such as San Francisco, Los Angeles, Seattle, Las Vegas, Houston, Dallas, Boston, New York, Washington DC and Chicago. Throughout the year we�ll also be adding more topics and cities as we add qualified instructors. Our dates are posted here: www.greaterphoto.com.
D80 and D70 Workshops
We have now combined our D70 and D80 workshops for 2007. We�ll be offering these in the Seattle, WA and Portland, OR areas through Out There Images, Inc. Additionally, we�ll be offering these through the Nikonians (www.nikonians.org) in cities all across the USA. Go here for more details: www.outthereimages.com/D80_workshop.html or www.outthereimages.com/D70_workshop.html.
Nikon D200 Workshops
The D200 is an extremely popular camera and for good reason! It is one of the nicest cameras I�ve ever used. We are going to offer D200 workshops in Seattle, WA and Portland, OR and are also offering an extensive workshop schedule with the Nikonians around the USA. Our first D200 workshops in the NW are scheduled for January 2007. Go here for more details: www.outthereimages.com/D200_workshop.html
The Art of Travel Workshops
Join us for a photographic adventure in 2007! Learn how to turn your next vacation into an artistic event with our Art of Travel Photography Workshops. The locations we have right now are Columbia River Gorge waterfalls and spring bloom 4/26/07 ~ 4/29/07. North Cascades NP and Mazama 9/20/07 ~ 9/23/07. Beyond these travel workshops, we are considering adding more throughout the USA in other pretty locations. Go here for more details: www.outthereimages.com/travel_workshop.html
Each month, more and more of you are signing up for private workshops. These have become very popular and are an affordable way for you to learn specifically what you want to learn in a one-on-one environment. During these sessions, we are able to work specifically on your own photographic needs and at your own pace. Available topics are Studio Lighting, Nature Photography, Wedding photography, Photoshop, color management, digital workflow, flash photography, portraiture, etc. Many of our customers have requested specific topics and we have tailored our private tutoring to their needs. Call (360) 750-1103 or email ([email protected]) if you have questions about this option.
Keep shooting my friends. The only way to get better is to get out and learn!
Out There Images, Inc. – “Get Out And Learn!”
PO Box 1966
Gig Harbor, WA 98335