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.
A recent picture of two of my girls strolling in Seattle’s Pike Place Market. Looking forward to getting back to Seattle soon.
I loved the contrast between the blues in the windows and the oranges/yellows in the flowers in the next shot.
I liked the possibilities in the next shot but didn’t execute it very well. The water and buildings made a cool backdrop through the windows IMO. I used manual mode and stopped down to f/14 to get a lot of depth of field and used a shutter speed fast enough for my shaky handholding yet slow enough for flash. It was a dark place relative to all the light streaming in the windows so flash was a must if I was going to keep the rainy mood in the background. I had no way to get the flash off-camera and bouncing didn’t work well so it’s not a lot better than a point-and-shoot. I’m sure I could have improved it with some effort but I didn’t want to stretch the girls’ patience too thin.
On a recent trip to Seattle my daughters and I paid a visit to the first Starbucks. I’m not usually very interested in something like this but thought, “Hey, we were right here so we might as well do it.”. While the place isn’t that interesting or unique when viewed as just bricks and mortar it becomes a bit more when you think of what Starbucks has become. This location also operates in a different manner than your typical Starbucks — and that gives the place some charm. Upon entering the door an employee welcomes you, inquires where you are from, and directs you to the next available person to take your order. Once your order is taken, your cup is tossed across the room to the barista. We witnessed a couple of misses…maybe they were rookies. They were all having fun though.
Of course I had to take a few pictures. Using my 50mm @ f/1.4, I quickly figured out an exposure and fired away. There were a lot of people so I limited my shots a bit. For the image at the top my hope was to frame the counter, barista, the neon “Espresso…Cappuccino” sign, and Starbucks sign such that they were all completely readable but I never quite got it. Unlike some photographers, I’m not willing to sit there in everyone’s way, holding up the crowd, etc. just for my shot…just not that important to me. I could have waited for an opportunity but when I’m hanging with non-photographers (especially family) I try not to push their patience *too* much by spending all day taking pictures.
I processed the image at the top with the intent to make it look rather vintage and I added some grain to top it off. The rest were straightforward edits — basic tweaks.
I apologize for some not-so-great pictures included in this post — they were taken with an old, low-ish resolution, waterproof point and shoot camera that I borrowed for our trip. I made sure that the lens was dry before using it but it didn’t handle glare from the sun very well. Had I been aware of that I would have shaded the lens whenever I shot into the sun.
Should you ever happen to visit the Hawaiian island of Kauai I highly recommend taking a kayak trip up the Wailua River to Secret Falls (some call it Sacred Falls). Actually, you have to kayak AND hike but it’s well worth it. The kayak part is roughly 2 miles each way if memory serves me correctly and the hike is a pretty easy 3/4 of a mile. Overall the trip takes 4-5 hours. We used Ali’i Kayaks and our guide was TC. He was great. There was the usual tour guide humor but also a lot of interesting information. He answered all sorts of random questions from us as we hiked.
The outfitter provided dry bags for each couple (just happened to be all couples in our group) in which we could pack a lunch to be eaten at the falls and whatever else we wanted. I packed my Canon 5D Mkii in a dry bag that I brought, then put that inside the other dry bag. I didn’t know what to expect at the falls but decided to pack the DSLR. I did not pack the tripod. After some quick paddling instruction from the guide — several of our group had never been on a kayak before — we paddled upstream. Along the way we viewed several movie filming locations but the only two I remember are one where Indiana Jones was running from the natives through the jungle and a village which was used to film the African village scene in the movie Outbreak. We beached the kayaks, hiked to the falls, and hung out for nearly an hour to eat lunch, wade (people like me) or swim if you were crazy (my wife and sister-in-law) as the water was freezing. I got someone to take our picture…from the instruction I had to give I wonder if he’d ever used a camera 🙂 The shot below doesn’t give a sense of how tall the falls are given the wide-angle lens used.