Saturday, April 17, 2010

The Candy Jar

One of the ladies at the office gave me a candy jar of chocolate for fixing her home computer the other day.  The jar was sitting on my desk at work next to a metal sailboat statue.  As I was working today, I kept coming back to the fact that the colors of the chocolate and the sailboat were very similar and that it might make a good image.  I wanted to practice with my Speedlites and accessories anyway.  Here is my process to get the final shot.

First I wanted to deal with the mood and coloring of the shot.  All light varies in color.  Our brains compensates automatically for these variances in coloring.  Whites always seem white when you look at them.  Digital cameras try to do this too by way of the White Balance function.  You can leave the camera in auto white balance mode and the camera will try to compensate for the color of the light to make the whites white.  If you set the white balance for yourself you can make some changes to the mood and coloring of the scene.  For instance, below is the candy jar with the color balance set to tungsten (normal light bulb) even though I’m not using any indoor lighting.  I’m just using the sunlight coming in the window.  Light from a light bulb has more red that sunlight.  Since the camera is expecting the light to be from a lamp, it is adding blue to the picture to compensate for the extra red that is suppose to be coming from a lamp.  Without the lamp, the photo turns blue.

Here is the scene with the color balance set to the shade setting.  Notice how the colors are now normal.  This is where I want to start with the shot.  I’m using my Canon 300D set to Aperture Priority with an f-stop of 5.6 ambient light only.

For the next adjustment, I noticed that the camera was still set to ISO 800 from the previous day.  I changed that to ISO 200.  The ambient light is a little brighter than I wanted so I added an exposure adjustment of –1.  I didn’t like the horizontal composition so I switched to vertical.

Better.  Now it is time to add the first flash.  On the camera I have a Canon 580EX II set to ETTL commander mode.  (It not adding light to the image.  It is only telling the other flash what to do.)  On a light stand to the right of the image, I have a 430EX with a full CTO gel.  Gels are a way to change the color of the light coming from your flash.  They are just sheets of colored plastic that are made to a very specific color.  A CTO gel is used to change a daylight balanced flash to the color temperature of a normal light bulb.  Since the camera is expecting the color temperature of light from under a shade, the gel will add some warmth to the image.  

The light from the flash is not as bright as I wanted so I added +1 to the flash compensation.

The front of the candy jar doesn’t have any detail.  It’s hidden in shadow.  I need some additional light to bring out the detail of the candy.  I used my 5-in-1 reflector to reflect some of the light from the flash back on to the front of the candy jar.  I’m using the sunlight side of the reflector right now.

Looking at the photo, I wanted the sailboat to have a softer focus so that your attention is on the candy jar.  To do this I simply increased the distance between the jar and the sailboat.

The shadows that the flash created were too harsh.  I added a white shoot-through umbrella to the 430EX flash.

Adding the umbrella cost me some of my light that was reflected back on to the jar.  To compensate I took the 580EX II out of commander mode.  I didn’t add the CTO gel here.  See how the mood and color of the image changes.

I added a CTO gel to the 580 to get the color temperature back to were I wanted it.

I don’t like the reflection that was created when I added the 580 flash, so I’m experimenting with the flash position in the next few shots.

I like the position of the flash in the last shot.  The flash head is now pointed into the 5-in-1 reflector and reflecting onto the jar.  These changes increased the flash brightness more than I wanted so I changed the flash compensation from +1 to +2/3.

I didn’t really like the reflection on the left side of the jar.  I removed the reflector and let the light bounce back from the wall.  What I got was a reflection of the couch.  That won’t do so I removed the reflective material from the 5-in-1 and use the diffuser to reflect the light back to the jar.  Then I changed the flash compensation to 0.

I’m almost there with the lighting.  The last change darkened the background a little too much so I changed the exposure compensation to –2/3.

Up until this point I have been working with the flashes in ETTL mode.  ETTL mode is Canon’s automated way to set the flash output.  I thought that I should switch the flashes to manual mode and practice using them in manual mode.  The first image is from when I first turned the flash to manual.  I didn’t realize that aperture priority mode didn’t work with the flash in manual so I switched the camera to manual too.  The second shot is f5.6 at 1/8 of a second.  The 430 is set to 1/16th power and the 580 is set at 1/32nd power.  That wasn’t enough so I bumped the flashes to 1/8th and 1/16th which to me is just about the same as the ETTL shot.

The last thing that I want to change is the position of the 430 flash.  The sailboat’s shadow is caused from the window light and is coming straight for the camera.  The shadow from the jar is cause by the flash and is going from right to left.  I wanted direction of the shadows to be the same so I put the 430 on a boom and moved it behind and above the sailboat.

Moving the flash left me with a small bright spot at the top of the frame.  I raised the flash a couple of inches.  I also moved the sailboat a little to the left.  Here is the final shot.

Here is the layout.

Thanks for reading.  I hope you got something from my thought process.


One Year Anniversary of

Well, today it has been one year since I started my photography website.  What a year it has been.  I started the website to publicly display some of the photographs that only a select few friends and family members got to see before.  The response I got has been incredible.  Here are a few statistics from the first year.  In the first year, my photos have been viewed 55,034 times.  The website has had visitors from 58 countries across the world.  Both the private and public comments have encouraged me to strive to be better.  Here are a few highlights from the year.

One of the biggest moments was the first time I entered a juried art exhibit.  I entered for the experience, to see what the process would be like.  I thought I would be lucky to have one photograph accepted.  To my surprise, all three were accepted.


I took a mini-vacation in San Francisco with my good friend Mark and combined my two favorite passions, sailing and photography. 

I got this one from the first time I got to shoot with a professional model, Renee.  It is still one of my favorites.

Shortly after that I took my first photography lesson/workshop ever and got my first set of swimsuit photos from Rachel and Danielle.

This last one is one of the most popular photos that I have.

I got my first print credit.  The two girls are my nieces, Samantha and Rachel.

I took my first studio workshop with Rolando Gomez and models Sasha, Eleya, and Heather.

Field of Dreams Movie Set

Rachel's Soccer

2009 RE/MAX Ballunar Lift-off Festival

Samantha’s gymnastics 

Rachel’s Christmas pageant

Samantha’s violin concert

Messing around in the kitchen

I drove down to Galveston before dawn to take these Christmas sunrise photos.

Four-wheeling in East Texas

Mom’s Flowers

Of all the photos that I’ve taken, I think I’m the most proud of the ones of the STS-130 Shuttle Endeavour launch.  I spent two months researching and planning the shoot.  Ultimately I waited up all night two nights in a row to take three minutes worth of photos.

Duck at Hermann Park

Fellow photographer, Lindsay decided to be in front of the camera for a change.

Photo shoot at the Woodlands with Britney, Sydney and Tana. 

Photo shoot with Alicia.  The photos of Alicia have only been on my website seven days and they already have already been viewed over 1300 times.