Tag Archives: light

The Yin And Yang Of A Composition

Sunsets afterglow at Kalaloch Beach, Olympic National Park (Washington)

My latest photography column has been published in the National Parks Traveler. It’s about the yin and yang of a composition, Click the image above if you would like to read the article.

Sunrise at the seashore, Padre Island National Seashore (Texas)

My latest Traveler’s Checklist has also been published, and it has a beach theme like the image above, because it’s all about Padre Island National Seashore. To read that article, click on the image above.

Copyright Rebecca L. Latson, all rights reserved.

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Filed under National Parks, National Parks Traveler, Padre Island National Seashore, Photography, Photography In The National Parks, Traveler's Checklist

Tuna Noodle Casserole (With and Without LumeCube)

Finished Tuna Noodle Casserole (Without LumeCube)
Finished Tuna Noodle Casserole (With LumeCube)

WTF? What on earth is this? Food photos? And not even really good ones. Well, yeah, I basically just saved them as-is without any fancy touches. It’s to demonstrate my new toy: the LumeCube panel. And no, I’m not a paid whatever – I’m just impressed, that’s all.

Ok, here’s the backstory. I am a pretty damned good cook, and I do almost all of the cooking for our family (me, my sister, and my youngest nephew). My sister suggested I create a little Blurb-made cookbook to give as Christmas presents this year. I have tons of recipes that I’ve been using over the past 3 years, and I take photos of my daily dinner creations. They aren’t fancy, posed, food photos because I get these suckers right before we chow down, and frankly, I don’t have the time (nor do I want to make the time) to get everything all just perfect in terms of composition. I just take the photos and then will work on them later for my cookbook.So, last night’s dinner was an awesome tuna noodle casserole (how 1950’s, right?). I took a photo of it sitting in the oven after it was done, then remembered I’d just gotten my LumeCube panels (one for the camera, complete with little mini ballhead that sits on the flash shoe, and one for my laptop so I’ll look only slightly better and more lit-up during Zoom meetings. I’d not yet even tried the LumeCube panel for my camera and decided this would be a good opportunity to test it out. I’m totally impressed.Yes, I might be able to get the same view with a regular camera flash, but with LumeCube, the light is on all the time so I can actually see how everything looks lit up through the viewfinder before clicking the shutter button.

To learn more about LumeCube, click the photos.

Anyway, I can tell you from personal experience that the tuna noodle casserole was very good, and it’s going to end up in the cookbook, tentatively titled “Becky Homecky’s Cooking Template.” That Becky Homecky moniker was bestowed upon me by my hairstylist a year ago. She likes giving people nicknames and since I’m the cook, she thought up that name. It’s a “cooking template” because all the recipes I use can either be cooked per the recipe, or tweaked (and I’ve tweaked many if not most of the recipes I use). So, if somebody wants to add cheese, or take it out of the recipe, they can, since all the recipes are basically “templates” which can be changed to suit the cook’s preference. Clever, eh?

Copyright Rebecca L. Latson, all rights reserved.

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Filed under food, Studio Lights

Focus On The Eyes – Focus On The Light

Portrait Of A Juvenile Yellow-Crowned Night Heron

I feel like I’ve struck gold this month!  In addition to my 3 Days in Big Bend article, the National Parks Traveler has published my regular monthly photography article.  Click on the photo to go to that article (and no, the photo above was not taken in a national park – it’s just all I had access to this morning as I post this blog).

 

 

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Filed under Canon, National Parks, National Parks Traveler, Photography

The Trickiness of Christmas Lights and Portraiture

I like buying local when I can, and I like buying hand-made. So when my friend Sabyn of Simplysabyn crocheted an adorable little Santa holiday hat for a baby, I asked her if she made them for big people, too. Yes, she did. So I ordered one. After receiving it, I thought it would make for a great Facebook profile pic to get a portrait of me modeling the hat in front of my Christmas tree (yes, it’s not even Thanksgiving yet and I have the tree up, lights, ornaments and all).

My goal was to try and get a relatively well-lit shot of me but with all the color and brightness of the lit tree in a darkened room behind me.

Easier said than done.

My first experiment was a shot of me and the tree using only the ambient light given off by the tree. My Canon 5D Mk III was set up with my Canon 85mm f1.2L lens on a tripod. The ISO was set at 1600 with an f-stop of 5 and a shutter speed of 1/10 second. I used my $20 Pixel-brand wireless remote shutter release to get clear images of myself. Oh, and I used myself as the model because I not only like the way I look but I was also the only one around at the time. I wanted to do this experiment right then and there, and I don’t mind doing this over and over until I get it the way I want. I figure other models would get a little bored after awhile. Plus, I wanted to send the final result to my friend Sabyn so she could use them on her FB site if she wanted.

Christmas Becky - Ambient Light

After many takes, here is the resulting image using only the ambient light. The entire image was cast in a golden-red hue which was further emphasized by my red hat and red fleece top. Interesting, but not quite what I was aiming for.

So I brought out a single light stand and screwed in a 500 watt bulb in front of which I put a 24” white umbrella for diffusion since 500 watts at close range is pretty intense – particularly since I was still trying to get the color and glow of the tree lights behind me. The camera was set at ISO 320 with a f-stop of 4.5 and a shutter speed of 1/30.

Christmas Becky

As you can see, the light was great on me, but it totally eliminated the ambience of the tree lights and ornaments.

I’d been working on this for over an hour, was hot and sweaty and more or less done for the day. It wasn’t until the next day that I considered using my flash off-camera. The only problem with that was my focus issue. I couldn’t have my Canon dedicated flash remote trigger on the camera *and* a wireless shutter release (I probably could if I had a different setup). In the end, I relied on manual focus. That was tricky because the only light in the room was provided by the Christmas tree. So I had to set up one of my camera backpacks in the chair in front of the tree, then shine a flashlight on the backpack to help me get the focus correct. Eye roll. But it worked.

This little photo session took forever, because I just couldn’t get the whole lighting thing right. I set the flash to one side of the camera, then I set the flash to practically in front of me, then I set the flash directly behind the camera and raised the stand about a foot above the camera. Finally, just as I was about to give up, I decided to try something. Leaving the flash on the stand behind and above the camera, I deliberately set the camera shutter speed slower than the flash, so that the flash would trigger but the camera shutter would be open for just a bit longer after the flash went off. ISO was 160, the f-stop was 7.1, the shutter speed was ½ second, and the flash intensity was set to between 1/128 and 1/64 (with it being closer to the 1/64 mark).

Christmas Becky-Flash

Ultimately, I had to brighten my face up post-process, but by golly, I got what I was working for: a nicely-lit view of my face and the colorful, glowing ambience of the tree behind me.

Christmas Camera Becky-Flash

Christmas Camera Becky Ornament

Photography is all about practice, experiment, and climbing that learning curve.

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Filed under Canon Lens, Christsmas, Equipment, Flash Photography, Holidays, Photography, Portraits, Studio Lights

Working On That Flash Photography Thing

Wireless-Manual-1/4

Once upon a time, I used to think of myself as only a landscape photographer.  Then, one day, I offered to photograph my nephew’s wedding as a wedding gift to them from me.  One thing led to another and I have now photographed several weddings, a wedding reception, a model portfolio, a bellydance portfolio, a couple of different dance troupes, my oil & gas company’s Dilley TX field office party and several years’ worth of King’s Feasthall / King’s Winetasting / Texas Renaissance images.   This all being done in addition to my regular , non-photographic day job.

For the majority of my images, I prefer using natural light as opposed to flash; I would increase the ISO and utilize noise reduction software during the post processing.  Oh, I  did use flash for a number of photos, but not many of them, since I have not been that enamored with flash photography.  Why?  Well partly because I don’t like the harsh shadows, partly because I know it bugs some people to have a bright light flashing in their face a lot, and partly because I am not very experienced with flash photography.

I am, however, totally enamored with light quality, quantity, and control of these two elements.

Because I currently have at least one, possibly two future weddings to photograph in 2013, along with an unknown number of portrait sessions, I finally bit the bullet and purchased Canon’s Speedlite 600EX-RT along with the Canon Speedlite ST-E3-RT  wireless flash transmitter and a couple of studio lighting props.   Practice makes perfect, so  I executed a number of  test shots of me (since I was the handiest human subject) that I’d like to share with you all.

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Note:  the majority of the images in this post only have sharpening and portraiture applied to my pretty little face via the post process, as well as removal of glare spots on my glasses.  The lighting is as it was out of the camera.  If I made any changes (say, lightening up some of the shaded spots on my face), I made mention of that.

Also, for some reason, the photos inserted into this post have a bit of a murky, green or off-color tinge to them.  If you click on each photo, it will take you to this photo on my website, where the color is true.

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I already owned a Lastolite Ezybox 24×24 softbox and stand, but haven’t been that thrilled with the results during the times I used it (again, remember I don’t have much flash photo experience under my belt). So, I decided to order a couple of other lighting accessories:  the Gary Fong Lightsphere and some sort of umbrella  lighting setup.

Sure, I know that I could have probably created a DIY lightsphere using a plastic milk bottle at a fraction of the cost of the Gary Fong version, but I didn’t feel like taking the time and effort and the lightsphere really is a pretty nifty item that fits quite well on my flash unit.

Becky-Straight Flash

Here’s the image with the flash straight out of the box.   I was pleased to see no harsh shadow.  The light was a little bit  harsh, though and  I was not so pleased with the resultant white balance.  Did it occur to me to set the camera’s white balance on something other than AWB?  Hell no!  It didn’t occur to me until after I’d run through a number of test shots.

Lightsphere_MontanaHat

Here’s an image using the Gary Fong Lightsphere.   Remember, not much experience with flash, have I (I say in my best Yoda voice), so to get a result like this made me pleased and proud, indeed.

The following day, I started working with my new umbrella and stand.  I ordered the Westcott 7’ parabolic white umbrella with 8’ stand. Um…ok…when I received the umbrella and unfurled it for attachment to the stand, it was *then* that I realized just how wide 7’ is.   I couldn’t raise the stand up too high or else the umbrella hit against the ceiling.  My spare bedroom is not a studio and the ceiling isn’t that high.

Lighting Setup #1

Ah well, size  issues aside, I went ahead with my tests.  The tripod, camera, umbrella and flash were on one side of the bed while I stood on the other side against the wall with the shutter release cable in my hand.

My flash was set up ETTL Manual and I was using my Canon 5D Mk III with a Canon 24-70mmL II lens.  The flash frequency was set at 1HZ  and the output was initially at 1/128.

Wireless-Manual-1/128

My reaction to a flash output of 1/128:  bleah.  Plus, that damned white balance looked horrible.  Not understanding flash output at all, I set it to 1/4 and my result is the very first image you see on this blog post, right beneath the title……a bit too bright.  But, at least I’d fixed the white balance by setting it on Tungsten.

Wireless-Manual-1/8

Output of 1/8

Wireless-Manual-1/16

Output of 1/16

Wireless-Manual-1/32

Output of 1/32

Now, in addition to the flash setup, I also had an overhead room light, two tall floor lamps (one on each side of the room), and a nightstand lamp to my left (that would be camera right).

Three Lights plus flash thru umbrella

So, here is a shot of me with the flash through the umbrella, at a flash output of 1/32.  This photo above was taken with all of the lights on. The only issue I found was the fact that the upper left side of my face was a little shaded.  Since I still wasn’t totally happy with the results, I decided to do something different with the umbrella.  I turned the umbrella and flash around, so that the flash would bounce off of the umbrella and the bounced light (rather than the light straight through the umbrella) would fall upon the model (aka Me).

Lighting Setup #2

Lighting Setup #2

Originally, I wanted the flash higher above the camera.  Unfortunately, the umbrella’s size precluded that little experiment (I’ve subsequently ordered a 32” umbrella).  That seven-footer kept scraping against the ceiling the higher I raised the light stand.  In the end, I kept the umbrella behind and to the right of the camera, just a little bit above the tripod setup.  I also decided to experiment with turning the various other lights off and on.

Nightstand and Flash

This shot was taken with just the flash bounced off of the umbrella, and the single nightstand lamp.  Sort of film noir-ish….or sort of sinister, depending upon your outlook.

Nightstand-Window Tall Lamp-Flash

This photo was taken with the flash, the nightstand lamp, and the floor lamp next to the window to the camera’s right.

Nightstand-Window Tall Lamp-Flash-Layers

I took the photo above this one and lightened up the shaded parts of my face a bit as well as lightened up the overall composition, in Photoshop.

Lamps-No Overhead -  plus Flash

I then turned off the overhead light, but kept both floor lamps and the nightstand lamp on while using the bounced flash.

Lamps-Overhead-Flash

This shot was using the bounced flash and all of the lights turned on.  My left side was a little on the cool side, while the right side was much warmer.  Nothing that couldn’t be fixed in Photoshop.  I should have tried using my large gold reflector to compensate for the cooler color on my left side, but I honestly didn’t think of it at the time.

Ok, so during all of these experiments, I noticed that I literally needed to keep an eye on the glare and little reflections the flash created on my glasses.  The glare was minimal and I managed to fix this issue in Photoshop.  This is something that can be normally corrected in-camera when looking through the viewfinder and telling a glasses-wearing model how to move their head to eliminate those pesky reflections.  It’s a little more difficult, though, when one is the model in front of the camera, getting the composition in focus with a shutter release cord.

There is so much to learn about lighting for photography.  I’ve only just taken baby steps. More testing will be in my future.  I’ve not only ordered a Westcott 32” white umbrella, but also a Westcott 32” soft silver umbrella.  Oh, and I’ve noticed something else, thanks to my sister pointing this out.  Makeup really helps!  Lipstick, mascara, foundation, blusher all add color and definition and keeps the model from looking washed out.  Compare the earlier images in this post (you can tell the earlier ones because I am wearing a different necklace) to the later ones.

Photographer Extraordinaire

I still love landscape photography, but I’m really glad I have branched out and am stretching my talents to improve upon my existing photography skills by focusing on more than just landscape photography.

Stay tuned! Winking smile

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Filed under Equipment, Flash Photography, Photography

Morning At 40-Acre Lake

Most photographers come to Brazos Bend State Park in Texas for the wildlife.  I do that too, but I also come to this place for the landscape photo ops.  On this particular morning, I left home at a little before 7AM to arrive at 40-Acre Lake by 7:30;  just in time for some nice morning light.   This is the observation/fishing pier.  Fishing is free here, but no boating or swimming is allowed (note the sign regarding alligators, of which I saw several).

1047-2_Sunrise On 40 Acre Lake

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Filed under Brazos Bend State Park, Landscape, Parks, Photography, Texas

Sunrise Over Swiftcurrent Lake and Grinnell Point, Glacier National Park, MT

Sunrise Over Swiftcurrent and Grinnell Point, Many Glacier area of Glacier National Park, MontanaI was going to post this photo on one of the Montana- or GNP-related Facebook pages out there, only to discover, to my chagrin, that these pages not only do not allow for visitor uploads, but some of them are basically just place markers directing visitors to go to the actual website. Ok, that’s fine. I want people to visit my website (and maybe purchase something). And I don’t allow for visitor uploads on *my* Facebook page either (probably because the page says Rebecca Latson Photography – a rather specific page). Nonetheless, I have a bit of a beef with those public pages that *are* simply used as place markers and don’t have any interesting stuff or postings on them. It’s a bit of a turnoff. If you are going to have a Facebook page, then for heaven’s sake, post stuff to it! That way, if people really *are* interested in seeing more of your stuff (like your photo galleries on your website), then they will go visit that website. And, they will “Like” your page, showing visitors that your page actually has some merit to it.

Ok, I’m off my soap box. I admit to being a bit cheesed off about not being able to upload my photo to one or more of those specific pages. *Maybe* it hurt my inflated ego just a little bit, since I am proud of my work and want to advertise my photographic talents (in the hope of snagging some bizness). Nonetheless, I think what I wrote above is still true.

What do *you* think?

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Filed under Glacier National Park MT, Landscape, National Parks, Photography, Travel