Saturday, June 26, 2010

Insane weekend!

This weekend is hectic to say the least. I did a shoot with Paul Hughes who is running for mayor in the Calgary civic election this fall. I completed an engagement shoot today with Jessica and Garett which was a lot of fun. Tomorrow I am photographing my nephew Quinn at the zoo.  Of course pictures are forthcoming and yes I am little tired.

Monday, June 21, 2010

A brief rest along the path

I have had a lot of success with my photography over the past six weeks or so. I shot my first wedding and I got some good results. I won two trophies at the Foothills Camera Club's annual banquet. One was for top points overall in the Division Two digital competitions. The other one was the Anne Pikering trophy for Human Portraiture.  Last week I also won my first ribbon at in the "Churches" challenge.  (It only took me about 205 entries.)

DPchallenge is something of a yardstick for me. There are some amazing photographers from all over the world and while anyone can join the site I feel privileged to be part of such fine company.  If I can make an image that's successful there it can be considered good pretty much anywhere.

When I first got my Nikon D50 roughly four years ago I looked for free online competitions and came across DPC. I paid my $25 dollars and bought a woody from Ikea for the woody challenge. Good thing a bruised ego heals quickly or else I may have quit shooting. This image was my first and while it was pretty bad / down right terrible it got me started. I learned from the experience and I have been learning ever since.

I've learned about aperture, shutter speed, ISO. I've learned about different lens lengths and filters. I've learned the controls of my camera inside and out.  If I include my point and shoot days, I've taken my camera to New York, Scotland, San Francisco, Kauai, Banff, Jasper and my own backdoor.

I've taken pictures of buildings, animals, flowers, landscapes, apples, ice cream, cars, trucks, and people. Yes I've photographed a few people. I've posed them and lit them. After the shooting was done I've processed them. I've shoved around more pixels than I care to remember with dodging, burning, blurring, sharpening, saturation, desaturation.

I've been using a DSLR for almost four years and I continue to learn and grow and develop my own style. I can't say that I am a portrait photographer, or a landscape photographer or an architectural photographer.  I love to shoot. My image catalog has hundreds of shots of things that most people wouldn't think of photographing. Bottle caps, fence posts and bears oh my!

The journey is still continuing and at this point I am merely pausing briefly to look back at the path that got me to where I am before heading up the trail some more.  I won't and can't rest on my laurels. The journey will only end when I stop traveling up this path.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Zack Arias: Transform

Somewhere in the handful of blogs I follow, I read about a video made by Zack Arias called Transform. I have to say that it is a powerful, thought provoking soliloquy about photography.

Photographers, and artists in general all have those time when things are rough. You don't think what you are doing is good enough. You think that what you're doing isn't original or worth looking at. Sometimes it's just a rut and sometimes that rut seems to be as deep as the Grand Canyon. Through that hardship you find a way through it and you learn and grow as an artist. Or else you pack up shop and call it quits. Its that simple.

Zack's message is mult-faceted but one thing is clear. At the end of the day we can't complain about this art we do. We aren't curing cancer. "The only job that cures cancer is the job that cures cancer." There are far more important things to worry about in this world.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Sigma 530 Super Flash in Wireless TTL? Check!

After playing around with my Sigma 530 Super Flash I wanted to use it and my Nikon SB600 and use them both in TTL mode.  Using both flashes in TTL means I can put the flashes where I want them and not worry about adjusting their outputs or anything of that nature. The camera will take care of the mental gymnastics and I can just take pretty pictures.  Initially I thought there was no way this was going to work and I'd be stuck with my cheaper than dirt Cactus trigger. Thankfully I was wrong. The unfortunate thing is the steps are rather convoluted and tricky to perform.

  1. Put your left foot in
  2. Take your left foot out
  3. Shake left foot all about
  4. Now do the "hokey-pokey" and turn yourself about (no one can do this but you!)

Alright, so its not the hokey-pokey but the steps do require some manual dexterity. The camera needs to be metering while you are adjusting the settings. If its not then you can't get the flash into TTL mode. Basically it means just periodically pressing the shutter half-way to "wake-up" the camera. I suppose one could go into the menu and adjust the "Auto meter-off delay" to a higher value than the 6 second default but that would also suppose one would have thought of that while one was trying this out the first time. That aside, with the flash mounted on the camera and the metering on follow these steps (described on this Flickr post):
  1. Press the MODE button to select the TTL / flash symbol / SL icon. 
  2. Press the SEL button to make the channel indicator blink and press the + or – button to set the channel
    number (either C1- C4).
  3. Press the SEL button to make the group number blink and press the + or – button to set the group number. Press the SEL button to confirm. 
  4. Detach the slave unit from camera body and place it in the desired position. 
One thing I had to grump about when I performed step three was that I bumped open the battery cover on the flash. Of course the flash turned off and then I had to start all over again.  I might be tempted to put a couple of wraps of hockey tape around that sucker to prevent that. At the very least it would help keep my quarters in my pockets and out of the swear jar.

Once all those steps were performed correctly I was able to trigger my Sigma wirelessly with TTL. I powered up the other flash and proceeded to blind the heck out of my poor dog who was the only model available at that moment. Okay, I must confess that he is a bit of a diva and does like to be in front of the camera and probably didn't mind a bit.

There are a few things I can try next. One is to simply control the output manually from the camera itself.  That should be simple enough but you never know. It would be handy because then I can have greater control over the lighting.  The other thing to try is the Auto FP option. This will allow me to use shutter speeds higher than 1/200 second such as when I want to shoot with wide apertures.