Life In The Fast Lane

090927_0415As planned, I got together with the Strobist St. Louis group on Sunday and spent the afternoon learning some new things about lighting and taking photographs of cars. I also got to play with some CyberSync flash triggers, which worked really well with the Alien Bee studio flash units provided by Ariana, who put together the whole meet-up and had three cars there for us to photograph. She also arranged for her favorite model Zaea to pose with the cars because cars and models seem to go pretty well together. For my part I was mostly there as a fly on the wall and anxious to learn as much as I could from everyone there. I tried to stay out of the way and not trip over any light stands.

As it turns out, taking photos of black cars in bright afternoon light is not so easy and we retreated into the garage where we could control things a little better until the sun got lower in the sky. Ariana brought along something called a PLM or Parabolic Light Modifier, which is for lack of a better description an 84″ diameter shiny umbrella which doubles as a death star if you happen to look directly at it when the flash goes off. Even the tungsten modeling light on the flash unit lit things up like a night game at a baseball stadium. Ariana brought enough lights, stands and reflectors to mount a small expedition and it was nice to have a lot of options and more choices for how to set up the lights.

I had a lot of fun and came away with a bunch of new ideas about working with lighting and keeping all the gear organized. You can look at the photographs from this meet-up by going to www.flickr.com and doing a search on this tag – stls_sept09

I went to work on Monday and caught a cold which has me feeling pretty miserable at the moment and makes it hard to be very productive as far as editing photos or writing anything that makes much sense. Some more aspirin and orange juice and then I’m off to bed.

External Validation

keep out

I finally heard back from the folks at www.istockphoto.com and it appears that my submissions were in fact up to stock snuff.  So now I will be combing thru the archives over here looking for the one half of one percent of shots that may be suitable for stock images and submitting those a few at a time while hopefully adding a few more to the collection as I go along. I don’t know if it will amount to much but at least now I can further confuse people I meet on the streets by telling them that I shoot stock photography. “Huh?”

No new photography adventures this week (so far) but I am planning on going to a meetup of the St. Louis version of the strobist group from www.flickr.com and meeting some of those colorful charactors in person. We are going to be shooting some high end sports cars which is something I had never really thought about doing before so I should be able learn something in the process. I’m hoping to try out some new lighting gear while I am there.

The gang over at www.adventurecanoe.com is also getting together this weekend for a quick float trip, so that made for a tough choice between paddling canoes or photographing cars. I’m hoping I will still get to go camping (and canoeing) sometime in October for a little fall color action out in the wild woods of the Missouri Ozarks. I’m hoping for an Indian Summer this year.

The Strobist Bootcamp II, Assignment IV,  winner is supposed to be announced over at www.strobist.blogspot.com on Monday 09/28/09. I’m curious to see the results on that one which was on the subject of transportation. I’ve had a good time taking photographs in the process of doing those assignments.

Right now I’m looking for some sort of bag or case to throw my light stands, adaptors and flash units in. I seem to have a lot of little boxes and nothing really fits or is easy to access all those small parts and connectors. Of course there is no budget for new cases, bags or backpacks (as usual) so I’m a little stumped for what to use. The lightstands and umbrellas fit in an old baseball bat case I found for $2 but it’s all the other junk like cords, chargers, batteries, filters, clamps and flashes that I can’t figure out what to do with. I think I need something like a tackle box with lots of little compartments. A waterproof Pelican case would work well since I like to venture outdoors with all this junk every now and then.

I Want an iPhone

The fact is, I’m a late adopter (or is it adaptor?). One of the few things I have ever bought when it first hit the market was my Nikon D300 and that’s because I have a lot more confidence in Nikon cameras than any other consumer products. I figured the camera would be right out of the box or that Nikon would make it right if it wasn’t. That’s based on past experience. All my Nikon gear works and keeps working for years and years.

When the iPhone came out I thought to myself, “Oh I want one of those.” I didn’t camp out at the Apple Store or wait in a long lines to get one, I waited… A few months later Apple dropped the price and I still waited. The truth is that I am a luddite and I don’t really use a cell phone very much. The one I have now is probably eight years old and has a couple of missing and broken parts. I often forget it and leave it sitting on the kitchen counter like a pitiful answering machine. For the most part I can live without a cell phone. Whenever I get around to calling someone they are usually busy talking to someone else on their cell phone. The other problem is that our family is locked into another service provider’s plan for at least a few more months, atleast that is my current excuse. Oh, and I hate the thought of paying those monthly data and text plans for the life of the new phone.

So, I keep looking wistfully at iPhones and iPhone upgrades and thinking that they are not so much money and that I need a new point and shoot camera anyway, so the iPhone could kill two birds with one phone, I mean stone. Today I’m sitting around minding my own business and looking at photography blogs when I come across this tidbit from Chase Jarvis.

Damn, I want an iPhone.

What Moves Me

whatmovesmeI finished my photo for the Strobist Bootcamp project on transportation yesterday, so I would like to thank David Hobby again for providing some nice end of summer inspiration for a fun photo shoot. Everyone’s submissions are over at www.flickr.com in the strobist group pool and tagged with – sbc2assign4.

www.strobist.blogspot.com

What moves me is photography and the way it can communicate thoughts, ideas and emotions. This photo was taken at a county park that I had not been to for a long time and I had forgotten how much I always liked going there. When I moved from my house in the suburbs I had to put my kayak into storage and over the winter the little car with the roof racks got sold. So I found myself with no kayak and no way to get a kayak to the water .

At the beginning of the month I borrowed a car (with roof racks) and spent the whole day going from one end of the county to the other to retrieve my trusty kayak and took it over to Ellen’s new house which has a nice little garage in the back, just perfect for things like old kayaks. Then I returned the car and went looking for cheap roof racks (which really don’t exist) for my own car so that I could go kayak when the mood strikes me. So this is a little tribute to my old friend which my nieces have named “Brucie.”

Exposure info: ISO 200, WB 3800, 1/160 second, f/5.6 and exposure comp -1/3 stop. Dark red gels on two flash units in boat sealed in double plastic bags and triggered with cactus v2 triggers. SB800 behind rear bulkhead, Sunpak 383s in front. Flashes set to half power. Nikon D300 focal length14 mm on Tokina 12-24 dx lens.

For more kayaking and canoeing fun check out www.adventurecanoe.com and sign up for the forum.

No Salt

nosalt

It’s Saturday night and all is quiet… Too quiet and that’s what is irritating me for some reason. Nothing much is happening and that means not much progress is being made. The world has taken something out of me this week but rather than complain, I’ll try recapping my activities instead.

I ordered another flash on Friday and took some more demolition photos under bad midday light. This whole week has been slow as far as photographs go but I do have some ideas sloshing around in my brain for next week even though the new flash will probably not make it until Thursday or Friday.

I could use another flash (radio) trigger but I’m thinking of upgrading, so it will probably end up being a bit longer before I buy anything new since I don’t want to add stuff I’m not going to use going into the future. I’m hoping to test a few of the new flash triggers by Radio Popper and Pocket Wizard soon to see if I can settle on a clear favorite. Of course the reality is that you can only use what exists at the time you want to use it even though a lot of tempting things are in the works. New gear is always exciting but often more of a want or a wish than an actual needed item to get the job done.

On a more mundane level, I also need a few more reflectors. I have been using the plastic sheets that yard signs and store displays often made of. That material (Coroplast) seems to hold up better for me than foam core board which is also popular to use as a reflector. Coroplast can be wiped off when it gets dirty and is easy to cut like Foamcore material. You can also use it to make gridded snoots for your shoe mount flashes.  I think I’m going to need a few more pieces of it for my outdoor photos next week. It’s pretty handy stuff and it is inexpensive when compared to the other options like collapsible reflectors.

David Hobby has a new Strobist Boot Camp assignment (sbc2assign4) going on right now over at www.strobist.blogspot.com so I am going to try throwing some effort in that direction because it is a lot of fun and a chance to interact with some other photographers as well as actually learning a new trick or two. The subject this time is “Transportation.”  There are also some cool prizes for the winning shot to motivate you so go check it out.

Balancing Act

Balancing daylight and fill flash.
Balancing daylight and fill flash.

This one is all about balancing ambient light with fill flash which just happens to be one of my favorite things to do. In this shot I am using a minimal amount of gear, a single off camera SB600 flash triggered by Nikon CLS, better known as the Creative Lighting System. It’s automatic and fine tunable from the camera. I thought I might have issues with triggering the flash outside but it worked flawlessly. Of course noonday sun might interfere with the optical triggering but I have not tried that yet so I can’t say for sure.

Tech info: f/10, 1/250th, ISO 800. SB600 flash triggered with Nikon CLS off camera left.

Micro Stock Pot Luck

Shipping crates in doorway, CWE.
Shipping crates in doorway, CWE.

At the risk of getting my feelings hurt, I submitted a couple of photos to a micro-stock website to see if I could get any of my work accepted. Since I seem to have a lot of photos that are likely never going to see the light of day again, I thought micro-stock photography seemed like something worth exploring.

This morning I went through all the photos I made with my Nikon D70 during the year of 2007 and found that I had very few if any images that I thought might work as stock photography.  First I rejected a bunch for technical defects; like noise and chromatic aberration; while some just were not that interesting (what was I thinking). Many of the other photos contained trademarks or recognizable buildings and landmarks that can’t be used without a property release. There were a few shots of people that I could have used but then I would have to go back and get a model release from each person before I can submit those photos. I certainly didn’t want to spend hours editing a pile of images just to have them rejected for one reason or another.

I was hoping I could come up with enough stock images to at least buy a new flash or some other accessory but the truth is I don’t know if I can come up with even a hundred images suitable to use as stock photography that would actually sell.  My best guess is that the name of the game is specialization and that a streamlined work-flow is essential to making money in micro-stock. 

As usual, I was looking to harvest the low hanging fruit but I don’t think that is going to work very well. I’m not sure the return on investment is worth it unless you get in on a massive scale. I’m thinking that you would need a dedicated workspace to serve as a small studio and then come up with a standard lighting scheme. Everything would have to be done in an assembly line type environment in order to make an average of less than a dollar per image. Is it really worth it?

I don’t have room to keep a tabletop studio set up all the time, let alone a big seamless backdrop for shooting models. What I am going to try to do is to incorporate some stock shots into my regular photography routine and see if I can come up with a few good samples each week. It never hurts to try something new except maybe to bruise the old ego which hates being made to look like a fool.