Monday, December 14, 2009

Hunting for a Christmas tree

Getting some shoots lined up over the next couple of months. For now, a family picture from this afternoon. Nikon D200, 35/1.8 near wide open, lots of rain and natural light.

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Friday, November 20, 2009

Letters to a young photographer

From Joe McNally's blog. Go check it out if you haven't already. Thought provoking, and inspirational.
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Thursday, November 12, 2009


From some discussion on a local photography website, with a couple of friends.

C61 : Speaking of lenses: D40x on the back of a 70-200.

And some shots with the combo:

VM : I love it.

Those look fantastic! The bokeh is, naturally, excellent. Noise looks good at ISO 800. Did you shoot the whole event at 800 with VR and no flash?

C61 : Thanks. And whatchoo talking about no flash? Plenty of flash in all of those pictures. They're on lightstands, as always. Shot most of the event with this camera at ISO 800, F2.8-4, and 1/200th. Ambient light was ugly (and dim) fluorescent, so ramped up the shutter speed to totally squash it. I didn't dare go above ISO800 with the D40x, 1600 comes out pretty crunchy from what I've seen.

VM : I guess that's a compliment in disguise.

...and one question leads to another. What kind of light modifiers are on the strobes? The light looks nice and soft. Also, yeah, 1600 looks pretty gross, from what I've seen, too. Good idea on killing the fluorescent lights. Couldn't you just use a green gel on the strobes or was it hard to match?

C61 : I'll take the compliment. Light modifiers? None. The indoor pics, the strobes are bounced off the ceiling, with a slight forward tilt and the bounce card extended to provide just a touch of direct light. In the outdoor pic, I have one light set up high and off to my right. If you look closely, you can see a little catchlight in their eyes. Without that strobe, they're in the shade just like the wall behind them.

Regarding gelling the strobes to match the ambient, I probably could, but I'm lazy. And the gel absorbs some light, maybe 1/2-2/3 stop? Lighting a big room with a pair of speedlights like that is already a delicate balance of flash power (=lower ISO or smaller aperture) and recycle time/battery life. I ended up with one flash at 1/2 power with PW attached and the other at 1/4 power using the optical slave. This let me put a PW on each camera, but it meant that my 2nd flash was triggering off of everybody's flashes. Went through three sets of batteries in that one before the night was over. Adding gels would have meant slowing my recycle time OR shooting wide open OR bumping up the ISO to 1600. Not compromises I was willing to make.

VM : Since your photos with the 40x and pro glass look great, tell me: what do you miss the most about the D700?

High ISO and AF speed?

...and maybe FX? (does it really matter much?)

(I'm resisting the Ken Rockwell mantra, "all anyone needs is a D40")

C61 : 2 out of 3, right there. The last one would be the external controls. I would really love to have a second control wheel again, as well as ISO and WB adjustments that didn't involve a trip into the menu system.

And it really should use CF cards. I don't like SD.

VM : And I bet things like dynamic range is better, etc. But eff, 5x the price and no lens! Doesn't the D90 get you 95% there?

I should really just shut up and reflect on the principle of diminishing marginal utility.

C61 : Actually, I don't have a lens now, except the 85/1.4 that doesn't autofocus on the D40.

Edit : Wait, I've got another one somewhere. Lemme go poke around and see what it was.

Edit 2: Damn, it's a screwdriver lens too. Needs the focus motor in body. Oh well, time to work on my manual focus skills.
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Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Choosing a direction

I've been busy. Very busy. And most of it has not been photography related. Cycle 61 Photography is still in operation, but on a very low-key basis. I've been picking up gigs here and there, but mostly been working at the regular job. As much as I'd like to make this a full-time gig, it's just not a reality for me right now. But I do plan to start ramping things back up, hopefully including this blog.

Which leaves me with a decision...for whom am I writing and posting? For my fellow photographers, for my potential clients, for myself?

There are hundreds of photographers who are operating beautiful and timely photo blogs, full of incredible images for their clients to see. There are many who dive deeper into the background, detailing lighting and business, challenges and solutions. There are gear reviews, there are sites that are full of links to everybody else's blogs and sites, and there's the Strobist and Joe McNally, who seem to put all of this together with flawless balance.

Perhaps I'll just return to posting up pictures and geek out whenever it seems appropriate.
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Monday, April 13, 2009

October, part 1

First up since the long break, a down-home family wedding in Georgia. Guests of honor, of course, get their pics posted on the main page.

This was my shortest cross-country trip to date, with my car sitting in the parking lot at SFO for a total of only 43 hours while I traipsed across the continent to Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport. The only thing longer than the name is the airport itself. I'm mildly surprised that they don't have shuttle flights from one end to the other. It's huge.

Flew in Friday night for a rehearsal dinner, as it were, at a local BBQ joint. Lunch in Silicon Valley and dinner in an Atlanta roadhouse makes for quite an afternoon. But I digress. A good nights' sleep and time to get ready for the ceremony.

Pictures and more, after the jump

The wedding was simple, but beautiful, held on a footbridge over a stream running through the wooded backyard of the grooms' parents' home. The stream (okay, really kind of a ditch, but that was part of the challenge) severely limited the angles which were available, and the afternoon sun coming through the trees was to be directly behind the couple. Through the trees. Bright, mottled light and deep shadows, always a good combination. Here's the setup in available light, from the shooter's perspective.

Two lights up on stands, facing towards the bridge, at about 1/8 power and zoomed in to where the couple would be standing. One had a mild warming gel to nudge the cool shade light coming through the trees to a more pleasing tone. A few minutes later, this is the scene:

Much better. The wide shots didn't amount to much, given the lack of water below the bridge and cluttered background, but the light worked out well for the closer shots, with a good separation from the background, and no worries about whether the patches of sunlight were falling correctly on everybody's faces.

I did most of my other shooting with camera in right hand, and flash in small softbox in left, adjusting aperture, ISO, and flash power on the fly. I just kind of get in the ballpark with these shots, and it seems to work well for me. We're pretty much in total darkness here without the flash, but I can't bring myself to put it on top of the camera. I like this look much better.

After all the real shots are done, and the party is well underway, I take some time to pick up a few details here and there, and experiment a bit with the unreal capability of the camera in near-total darkness. I love being able to do this...

I keep hearing that I'm crazy for shooting off-camera flash at weddings. I simply do whatever gets the images I need. Wouldn't have it any other way.

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Random Milestone

Just was scrolling down through the last few posts, got to the bottom of the page, and happened to notice this sitting there. I figure that myself and the various web bots probably account for about 24,500 of these page views, but as I'm typing up some more posts it's good to see that somebody's reading the blog.

This, of course, is about as many hits as the Strobist gets in a slow hour...but you've gotta start somewhere, right?
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Sunday, April 12, 2009

Cycle 61 Photography is still here...

It's been a long time. But there's been quite a bit going on behind the scenes. Updates coming soon. Probably going to jump back eight months or so and catch up sequentially. At least that's the plan. See you all again soon.
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Saturday, August 30, 2008

Moving Day

Moving out

Been working last night and most of the morning getting everything loaded out of the house and into the truck for our epic journey five miles down the road. We're moving out of our 900 square foot box and into a much bigger, and nicer place in Pleasanton. This is currently the view from the webcam on my iMac, which sits in the garage/office/studio. Hopefully I'll be back online at the new place in a few days.

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Thursday, August 28, 2008


Fun random and rather educational internet toy: Wordle

It reads any patch of text, blog, website, whatever, and gives you back a graphic with your most used words. Words that are most used show up largest, less used are smaller, etc. Here's what's been in my blog recently:

Wordle image of my blog


ISO is far and away my most used word (damn, I did it again!) followed closely by D700 and D200, along with "much". I don't say that much, do I? I see that light and shots make the b-list, and money is almost nonexistent. Hey, just like real life.... Gotta fix that. I'm gonna go wordle the strobist and see what we get.

Just as I expected. It's all about light.

Found in Ivan Makarov's excellent blog, IM Digital
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Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Vacation Pictures

New York Summer

How bad can it be to spend a week in a place that looks like this?

More pics after the jump.

Welcoming Commitee

The new portable traveling dog, Eddie. The full-size dog was traded in a few months ago.

Lake Seneca shoreline

Some flowers by the shore of Seneca Lake. Note the artsy vignetting. I didn't until it was too late. Need a thinner polarizer. Maybe I could crop it square and have a really expensive Holga.


My uncle, doing one of his favorite things in life, sitting at a campground surrounded by family.


Feet. I love feet. They say as much about a person as hands, sometimes.


My mom's new place. They're on the road full time, as of a few days ago!


Hi Mom! (Ya gotta look at me next time :-)


This one raised some questions. Like "Why the heck are you sticking your camera in the fire!?!?!"

...still better than working!

You know what they say about a bad day fishing...

Catch of the day

My little girl... this kid may look cute, but she's a fish killer!

Feet II

More feet. Well, same feet, later in the week. My girl hates this picture, but I don't think she reads the blog. You never can tell with seven year olds these days.


Tupperware Archaeology.


D700, 50/1.4, and a campfire. What more do you need?

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