When I sat down at the dinner table this evening I found this grin staring at me. How could I not get the camera out? I used my Canon 5D mkii with the 70-200mm f/2.8 — shooting wide open to blur the window frames and scenery outside as much as possible. I bounced a flash off the wall behind me. There was no posing, very little attention to what was in the frame, and only minimal attention to composition. I spent most of my efforts on catching my daughter’s eyes in focus. With the shallow DOF and my daughter’s constant motion it was tough and I missed it a lot. How could I not love the pictures anyway? I took 60-70 shots and ended up with quite a few keepers.
Editing was all done in Lightroom — white balance, slight crops, exposure, contrast, vignette, and a tad bit of noise reduction. I did none of the typical overdone baby skin stuff. In fact, I did no “retouching” at all (it would have been a lot of work to fix all those healing chicken pox marks anyway). No skin edits, no eye enhancements. They are cute enough the way they are 🙂
We played in the snow today — quite a change from the warm, Texas weather. While I have no interest in living in a snowy climate again I do enjoy getting in the snow every once in a while. I took five of my children up to Stevens Pass in Washington for the express purpose of playing in the snow. There has been all sorts of snow up there in the past few days so we knew it would be fun. Things looked even better when it began snowing in the Seattle area before we even left the house.
After getting all wet and cold we headed back down the mountain and explored some side roads to enjoy the scenery. At one spot my daughter (the one in the picture above) pointed out a spot she thought would be nice for a group photo (below). At another nearby spot she asked me to take a few pictures of her in front of a bridge and the snow-covered trees (no one else wanted to get out of the car again).
Photo stuff…In the group photo below you can see the snow falling in front of our faces — we wanted to show the extent of the falling snow. However, in the individual shots we wanted to avoid the snow in the face and found a space under some trees which allowed that. However, it was so dark that we had to add some flash into the mix (no gels used). With the others waiting in the car I didn’t spend much time perfecting things but we like what we got.
The odd composition above came from just moving around trying different things out. I don’t like it…but my daughter does so I’m posting that one.
Each year in Burnet, TX, the First Baptist Church opens Main Street Bethlehem to the public. The church has a permanent town of Bethlehem built near the church and for a pair of weekends it comes alive with shepherds, blacksmiths, bakers, rope makers, candle makers, tax collectors, Roman soldiers…and bazillions of visitors from all over Central Texas. All these actors take on their full character and as you walk through the town they treat you as if you are actually in Bethlehem 2000 years ago. They ask you if you want to buy their products, taste their bread, and “Did you hear about the Messiah?!?”. If you try to get them out of character by talking about some modern thing they do a remarkable job of acting as if they have no idea what you’re talking about and they quiz you back with questions fitting the times. Our children’s favorite spot in the town is the tax collector’s table. As the townsfolk come to pay their taxes there’s the occasional person whose taxes are delinquent. The children like to watch the Roman soldiers haul them off to jail.
Most importantly, there is a manger where Mary and Joseph hold a baby to remind us of the gift of Jesus Christ that God gave us many years ago.
Shooting in the low light was difficult as the 50mm f/1.4 lens has a terrible time focusing. With the place being so crowded I really didn’t have time to fiddle around so I tried to quickly find high contrast points to focus on and snapped away in aperture priority mode. I also used between minus 1/2 to minus 1-1/2 exposure compensation so the camera properly captured the night scenes.
We *tried* to take some portraits of my wife and daughter but not everyone was cooperating. Eden was a bit fussy when we posed her but I snapped off some frames anyway. This is image is one — the ONLY one — worth keeping. Despite being the only good image I call it an outtake because it’s not at all the image I was after. I like the expression on my wife’s face and Eden’s outstretched arms but it has a few technical issues. For starters, because I was shooting near wide-open and my wife was moving back and forth to rock the baby, the focus is a bit off. We’ll try again soon.
This was shot with two lights: a Canon 580EXii at about 1/16 power in a small softbox at camera left for the key light and a Canon 430EXii high, behind my wife at camera right for hair/highlight (1/64 power and gel’ed with some ND to kill more of the power). The background is a sheet we hung in the hallway (yep, I need to get some backgrounds). I started by setting an exposure which killed the ambient. Using my older daughter as a test subject I then added the key light followed by the hair light. The background is not lit because my intent was to make it pitch black.
Before even shooting this my intent was to process in black and white but I haven’t even attempted to go that route in processing yet. I tweaked some areas in Lightroom then brought the image into Photoshop. I used masked curves to brighten the hair, eyes (a tad), and a few areas of skin. I also used curves to darken a few areas. One final curve dropped the red channel ever so slightly. I sharpened the hair and used noise reduction on the rest of the image. That’s all I can remember anyway…
Here’s another version of the same image which I processed slightly differently. I can’t personally decide which I like best although I lean toward the one at the top of the post which blends subject/background relatively seamlessly.
My wife saw that quote on a billboard as we drove out of the DFW area last weekend (I believe the billboard used a military ship as the backdrop). I had just attended the Alliance Airshow in Fort Worth the day before and I thought the quote was appropriate for a shot of the Thunderbirds.
A friend and I bought photographer passes for the show. The passes were sold to 70-ish photographers and granted access to the show 2 hours before the general public so we could photograph the static displays without the crowds. We also had a designated area at the flight line — just to one side of the show’s announcer at show center. Plenty of room, free water ($3 per bottle if you buy at the concession stand), and lunch provided. It was well worth it.
Editing was simple: “Auto” preset in Lightroom, set daylight white balance, added some clarity and a little fill light. Vignette and deep blue sky are courtesy of the polarizing filter I was using.
I had to snap this photo of all the glass in the photo area. All I could think of is Mark Garbowski’s blog title “Too Much Glass”. It was entertaining to watch the chorus of lenses scanning the sky in synchronicity as planes flew by. I had some serious lens envy with my puny 70-200mm f/2.8 IS.
Due to a ticket snafu with Delta Airlines my daughter was delayed by a week on her trip to Africa. The new itinerary that Delta emailed the day before her flight showed that her destination was not even in the correct hemisphere! Fortunately Delta acknowledged that it was as much their mistake as it was ours so they fully refunded the old ticket and set her up with a flight in a week without any penalty for short notice. So, she gets to be home and see friends for another week.
With the additional time we decided to try a few more portraits and play around with the lighting. My friend “B” and two other daughters acted as voice-activated light stands and reflectors. In addition to the main light we added a hair light behind her. When I fired off the first few test shots the hair light didn’t trigger. However, one of those shots ended up being my favorite of the bunch. We were goofing off and I was fortunate enough to capture a natural, joyful look. You never know what “mistakes” will bring.
Lighting was a Canon 580 EXII with a 1/4 CTO gel through a white umbrella, triggered via Elinchrom Skyports. I believe it was at 1/4 power. Post-processing consisted of using the “Sharpening: Portraits” preset and adding a slight vignette in Lightroom to get rid of a few details which showed in the background.
[Side note: The Elinchrom skyports work 100% reliably when everything is connected properly. However, the transmitter has no means to tighten it on the hotshoe — it relies on friction. Quite often a slight bump move it enough so that it does not make contact and things don’t fire. It’s not always visually apparent that the transmitter is not seated correctly. Still worth the money I think (otherwise excellent performance and “reasonably” priced). There’s my Elinchrom Skyport review…]
So — I finally found a camera bag that I like and am not going to return for a refund. Mind you, it’s not the perfect bag for all situations (no such bag exists IMO), but it fits my immediate need for a bag to carry some gear in a manner I’m comfortable with. Bags are such a personal thing but I thought this little review might give someone an idea of what to expect from the Domke F-2.
The type of bag I was searching for was something to carry on photowalks and also transport my camera and a lens or two in the trunk of my car (keep gear from rolling around and be available so I can just grab the bag if I decide to stop and take an impromtu photowalk). I was also hoping to find a bag which would do double duty and serve as a half-camera/half-general-purpose bag on an upcoming trip to Europe. Since I’m fortunate enough to live in a city which has a full-blown camera shop (Precision Camera in Austin, TX) I was able to take my gear into the store and try packing it in various bags — that helped eliminate many possibilities up front. I also had a friend who allowed me to borrow a Kata sling for a month or two.
I ended up really liking the Domke in the store and when I first used it “for real” I just loved it. The image below shows the bag along with the gear I’ve recently been carrying in it. I could easily fit more if I chose to stuff every corner. Please excuse the lousy product shot using on-camera flash and taken with no thought regarding setup or background.
I had the following gear packed in the Domke F-2 with room to spare:
Canon 50D with Sigma 10-20mm and hood
Canon 24-70 f2.8 L with hood
Canon 70-200 f2.8 L with hood – sticks up into the top flap a bit but isn’t problematic
Canon 50 f1.4 with hood
Canon 580EXII in its case
Lens cleaning stuff
Hand strap (for the bag)
Black Rapid RS4 strap
coiled flash sync cord
cable shutter release and a wireless remote
batteries, mem cards
Granted, the bag was heavy with those items but they easily fit and I still found the bag easy to work out of. The shoulder strap is a couple inches wide and is quite comfortable. Note that I wouldn’t normally carry all that gear but I wanted to put the Domke through its paces.
The bag itself is extremely lightweight and forms to your body. There are removable inner compartments (velcro) but even when those are used, the outer shell of the bag remains flexible and allows the bag to effectively collapse and shrink into a smaller bag when you don’t stuff it full. This is a big plus in my book — I don’t like the stiff, permanently-shaped bags. A downside to this is that there’s no outer padding (just the internal compartments are padded).
The four outer pockets (two in front, one on each end) have no padding whatsoever. Advantage: pockets collapse small when not used. Disavantage: if you’re putting delicate items in those pockets you need to be extra careful with your bag.
Zippers…the only zipper on the bag closes the pocket on the inside of the top cover. I wish there were zippers on a few other pockets because the loose flaps make me a bit nervous that something small might fall out or that someone with a small hand might be able to grab something out unnoticed when in a crowd. The top cover includes two metal clips in addition to velcro to keep it securely closed.
I’ve tried shoulder/messenger bags, a sling, and backpacks. Each has certain advantages and disavantages but I found none to my liking before I tried this Domke. Of course, when it comes time to haul all the camera gear along with a laptop and other items, I’ll be shopping for a second bag and writing a second review…
The Domke is available in a regular canvas material or a waxed canvas. I chose the wax for a little protection.
[Follow-up: Attended a photo workshop after posting this…both our instructor and another pro in the workshop were carrying this bag]
[Follow-up #2: Lugged this bag all over Paris and London. Carried my 50D, 10-20mm Sigma, 18-200 Sigma, batteries, cards, etc. and still had plenty of room for maps, my jacket (had to stuff it when both the jacket and camera were in the bag at the same time), phone, water bottle…still love this bag. I would have liked a shoulder pad for those days I carried the bag for 12+ hours, but the strap is wide enough that it wasn’t really a problem.]