I’m sticking with the pool theme for this post. We recently were invited to swim at a friend’s pool (cheers all around from the kids) and I decided to lug the camera along to get some pictures. It was 5pm and the sun was high in the sky. Fortunately when the kids were on the diving board the sun was slightly behind — meaning that if I could manage to get *enough* light reflected off the kids’ faces it would at least be *even-ish* light. Coming up with that light — while saving the background somewhat — was the first challenge then.
The next challenge was the huge dynamic range in the skin tones. In the song “Jesus Loves The Little Children” the line goes “Red and yellow, black and white, they are precious in His sight”. We didn’t have “yellow” but we had red, black, and white figuratively speaking. If you light for the lightest skin the darkest skin might be way too underexposed. Expose for the darkest skin and the lightest gets completely blown out in the bright sunlight. The challenge was to maintain the best balance in the situation — via my camera and flash settings.
My gear: Canon 5D mkii, Canon 70-200mm f/2.8 L, and Canon 580exii flash gel’ed with a 1/4 CTO. I started out using shutter speeds of 1/200 to 1/250s to stay within the sync speed of the flash. This was reasonable for much of the action and gave me quite a bit of flash power, which I needed when shooting from these distances (50′+). Remember that the light follows the inverse square law — double the distance and you are only left with 1/4 the light. Later I switched to using high-speed sync which allowed shutter speeds up to 1/500s to freeze the action but reduces the power that the flash can put out. Both methods were effective in their own way. With the 5D mkii I also had ISO as a lever. I didn’t want to go too high with it (but I did use up to 3200 some of the time). A higher ISO also reduces the need for so much flash power but you pay in noise. Note that sometimes when using flash in bright light you *can’t* go very high with the ISO because the flash sync speed is a “long” shutter speed (relative to the overall brightness in the scene) and is allowing a lot of light to hit the sensor. In summary, I can’t tell you what the “best” settings are for a situation you might be shooting, but hopefully I’ve given you enough info to jump start your thoughts and get you experimenting with it. Keep in mind that in the evening the light changes rapidly so you’ll have to adjust for that as well.
In Lightroom I still had to use an adjustment brush to even out the exposure of the faces a bit (in most pictures). All in all, I was very happy with the way they turned out. The important parts of the backgrounds were preserved and the kids are exposed well enough. There’s always plenty of room for improvement though.
My son leaping out of the water pretending to be a monster. I love how the motion makes his hands look like claws. And the mask? Well, nothing needs to be said.
It was in the middle of a bright sunny afternoon — terrible time for photographs. I used a flash so that I could dial down the ambient a bit. We took several shots like this, using a fast-ish shutter speed but not so fast that it froze all motion. In post I processed things pretty heavily in Lightroom — lots of contrast and clarity.
My wife, myself, and two other couples visited the Oklahoma City National Memorial last night. We had been told that it had the most impact at night so after dark we took the walk from OKC’s Bricktown to the memorial. We chatted loudly as we walked the streets but naturally became somber and hushed in tone as we arrived at the city block where the bombing occurred.
Our entrance was through a 4-story tall bronze “gate” which led to a 1″ deep reflecting pool which replaced the street along which the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building once stood. There was a bronze gate at the other end of the pool as well.
Shortly after our arrival we were approached by Tucker, one of the National Park Service employees. He was quite friendly and asked if we had any questions so one of our company asked him to explain the various pieces of symbolism contained in the memorial. Tucker did a fantastic job explaining the memorial with great enthusiasm — I will be writing the park service to commend him. As I recall there were 8 major elements in the memorial. The bronze “Gates of Time” represented the minute before the life-changing event. One gate is marked “9:01″ — one minute of innocence before the blast. The other gate is labeled “9:03″ to mark the first minute into the healing process after the blast. The reflecting pool is there to allow one to look into it and see a life forever changed by what happened.
The “Field of Empty Chairs” was the most significant part of the memorial to me. The field itself is the footprint of the former building. Each chair has the name of a victim and is placed in such a way as to indicate the floor of the building where the person was killed. I attempted some pictures — all I had was a basic point-and-shoot camera — but none are good enough to post .
Other symbols included the Survivor Wall, Survivor Tree, Rescuers’ Orchard, Children’s Area, and the Fence. Tucker explained each one and even gave us insight into why the memorial’s designers chose to represent things as they did. However, I’ll leave it to you to read about these on the internet if you are interested.
Despite the poor quality of the night-time point-and-shoot pictures I decided to post them anyway and I encourage each of you to take a bit of time to remember the victims of this horrible tragedy. We marked our remembrance by doing something Tucker suggested. We dipped our hands in the reflecting pool and placed them on the bronze gates for a few seconds. This leaves a lasting hand print on the bronze — a lasting mark of our visit.
Located west of Austin, TX (about 20 miles from downtown as the crow flies), Hamilton Pool is a favorite swimming hole for many Austin-area residents. It’s formed at the point where Hamilton Creek pours over a 50 foot waterfall into an incredible grotto.
Jim Nix (http://www.nomadicpursuits.com) invited me to go shoot at the pool this weekend. I’ve lived in Austin for 19 years, 9months, and some-odd days and I had never been to Hamilton Pool. Because of this fact (and of course because Jim’s a great guy) I took him up on the invite and had a great time going after some images. Got a bit of exercise too.
You can see Jim in the photo below. I saw him standing near the falls and I plopped down my tripod right where I was to capture an image which included him. I had seen incredible images of this pool but they didn’t have anything as a reference point to convey the true size. Including a person in the frame gives the viewer a real sense of how big this grotto is.
3-exposure HDR, center exposure 18mm f/14, 1/2s, ISO 100
On the drive out the skies were looking promising for HDR (lots of texture) but by the time we were there and set up they seemed to have turned almost to plain, gray overcast. I didn’t end up with decent skies in any of the shots I’ve processed at so far.
I’m not super happy with any of the images so far but they’re good enough for me to at least enjoy them. I was on a semi-strict timeline that day but I came away with some angles I’d like to explore further on my next visit. My hope is to visit again on a *partly* sunny day (want some awesome clouds to include in the shots). I would also like to visit in the spring when there are some leaves on the (currently bare) trees.
Here’s another shot of Jim working on some compositions. The foreground is busy with all those branches but I still like the shot because of how the focal length compresses Jim and the falls in the frame.
3-exposure HDR, center exposure 70mm f/20, 1/2s, ISO 100
And one more, a spot along the creek with some interesting water, trees, and reflections. I might have played with more angles here if it were not for my schedule.
3-exposure HDR, center exposure 24mm f/13, 1/13s, ISO 100