Monday, December 10, 2012

Guitar Hero: formation of an image

Guitar Hero by Jacob Åberg (jacke)) on
Guitar Hero by Jacob Åberg

Here is a picture I made very recently (the one I talked about in the last post) that I am very satisfied with. It was in many ways a very laboured project, that took a very long time to get done.

Looking through my correspondence regarding it, it is first dated from May, 2012, and I had been processing the idea some time before that too. Perhaps that is why it feels like an important picture to me, since it took so much effort to make. The effort was not only in planning, but also, probably more, in the construction of the set/light-modifier.

The initial idea was a wall of spotlights backlighting the "guitar hero". It was partially inspired by the BECK anime/manga, which deals with a rock band rising to fame. Since I don't have access to spotlights, I needed to somehow simulate them, which led me to the idea of a huge pseudo-softbox with a very particular grid. Cue lots of cardboard and duct-tape...

OK! With that done, some holes.

For the "pipes" I used rolled up pieces of a foam camping mattress, fastened in the holes with, you guessed it, duct-tape! I don't have any good pictures of that so you will have to use your imagination... The next step was to cover the backside of the whole structure with white plastic that would light up enough. (I used cut up white waste bags... keepin' it classy.)

And the look from the front with all lights going. For the record I used four speedlights behind the wall, widest zoom, 1/8 power. I could probably have gone 1/4 without problem, but I preferred not risking interrupting the shoot to change batteries in case they ran out.

I rounded off the image with two snooted speedlights on each side, slightly behind of him, placed low, aiming up. Pump up the smoke machine to get the magic going, then some postproduction spice on it, and voilà!

Tuesday, December 04, 2012


Lighting is a funny thing to me.

Using only small flashes, without model lights, I never know exactly what will happen when I hit the switch. It's a world of uncertainty. You can conjure up a guess, based on past experiences, and with more experience your guess-work improves. But it's always interesting for me to see exactly what will happen with the light, part nervousness, part excitement. Tomorrow I'm going to turn the lights on my most ambitious project so far.

More to come.

Edit: this project is post-poned to whenever I can get all components in the same place at the same time.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Recent pictures

While I have not been writing so much I have done more photoing lately!
In this set I tried out my new tri-flash head, which proved to be a useful weapon in the battle against the sun! I keep wondering though how it would look with the higher shutter speed of an electronic shutter like on the old Nikons... I may have to get one at some point and investigate the abilities of its flash sync. The minimum ISO of 200 is a bit worrying though.
Here I was testing out a new style of post-processing. Also a bit of an inofficial experiment to see how long it would take for a pretty girl to climb to the top of the popularity ranking... ;)

Monday, April 23, 2012

Gear to love

Of course I'm using "love" in a non-literal way, but there are some parts of my bag full of gear that I just feel click for me.

The 40D. This is to me one of the best purchases I have made. Even though it has the same resolution as the 1000D, there's just something about he 40D that says CAMERA. When you hold it, it feels substantial, like there's something more than simply wiring and electronics. With the 50D, 60D and (the surely upcoming) 70D, it has been superseded many times, but there is still something to it. It keeps clicking and it's all I need. (For now, at least...)

The 85mm f/1.8. This is one of the biggest reasons to get into the EOS system, in my opinion. While probably over-shadowed in use by the 50mm f/1.8, I would reach for the 85mm any day of the week, despite the extra cash I would shell out. The USM, the large aperture, the size, the build quality, the image quality, it's all spot on. Put anything in front of it and open up the aperture and that's pretty much it.

And the latest addition to the list, the Manfrotto Nano 5001B. I can honestly say that this has been almost as big of a revelation as the first time I shot a flash off-camera. Now I can get a light-stand with me without the bulk and with very little extra weight. Fold in the legs and I have flash-on-a-stick that I can hand-hold.

The list may grow if I ever start shooting with more expensive equipment, but for now, it's a good start.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

In the meantime

I have also strongly been considering getting something new (or used, rather) as walkaround. At the moment I am still using the old Powershot A530, which has held up surprisingly well considering how many times it has been dropped on the floor. Mostly I'm finding myself at the widest angle it offers (35mm equivalent) and I find it suits my purposes very well. I also like the 50mm on the AE-1 I occasionally use, so some sort of middle ground would be good. And that leads me to...The micro four-thirds system with the 20mm f/1.7 pancake lens. A one-prime solution not much larger than a point-and-shoot but with better quality! Let's see what the future brings...

Sunday, April 15, 2012

The way forward

Lately I have been thinking about the path forward regarding camera gear. But first some photos!

(I should really make a habit of posting images closer to the time of shooting. With it being so long since I shot these I have no real motivation to talk about the specifics...)

I have mentioned before the conundrum on moving forward from the 40D. For me, at this moment in time, it's pretty much all I want from a camera. It will, however, not last forever. While there are plenty of good cameras in the Canon field, I have gradually started thinking about the Nikon CLS lighting system, and of the ability to do "dumb" rear curtain sync, which I have heard Nikons can do and Canons not.

Of course this is all in the distant future, but it is a thought that has started growing in my mind.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Flash shootout: Nissin Di622 mk2 vs. Tumax DSS688

These are my two latest flash purchases, and seeing as they are in some ways seemingly similar and in others quite different, I would like to make a quick review/comparison of the two, mostly from off-camera perspective.

The Nissin Di622 mk2 is the sequel to the fine-enough Di622. Owning a Di866 myself, and having good experiences with it, it was quite a simple decision to go for Nissin again.

The Tumax DSS688 was the unknown, though judging from the construction it should be quite similar in innards to other brands like Dörr. What must first be clarified is that the Tumax is an all-manual flash. No e/i/anyTTL or automation of any kind.
A Dörr flash and the Tumax DSS688

Let's start with the similarities. They have similar guide numbers, the Nissin with 44 (m) at full 105mm zoom, and the Tumax with 45 (m) at 85mm zoom, according to their respective spec sheets. It is however difficult to do a real comparison between them, since there is no manual zoom on the Nissin. According to the manual, when you direct the flash head in any other orientation than front, the flash head sets itself to 50mm, which I assume it also uses when used off-camera.

The flash head is also where the DSS688 departs from all my other flashes, in that it does not have a motorized zoom. You take the flash head and pull it out to zoom the flash.

They also have very similar connectors, both coming with PC socket and 3.5mm sync port. While this may seem all well, readers of the Tumax manual will soon find a large minus. The ports are namely separated, so the PC socket is output only, and the 3.5mm is input only. With the Nissin you can chain it however you like. The Tumax however is packaged with two PC-to-3.5mm cords, which gives it some plus-points back.

The build quality for both is pretty standard plasticky. Neither matching up to the Di866 (which in turn doesn't match the sturdiness of my SB24's). The Nissin feels a bit more solid though. The buttons on the Tumax are also not very confidence-inducing, and the small light that you can activate to light up the display falls short of lighting it up...

Using them off-camera, you have plenty of options for both, but in very different shapes. For its basic approach, the Nissin holds some nice options, changing the mode at the push of a LED-lit button, which changes colour depending on which mode is selected. A simple, but effective approach that makes good use of the little space is available at the interface panel. There's manual, for radio/wire triggering, slave digital for TTL-triggered, the "dumb slave" mode for trigger on light, and a basic wireless mode that puts it in a fixed location of channel 1 group A.

The Tumax takes a completely different approach. Instead of any automation, it simply has 9 different slave modes, with each mode ignoring that number of pre-flashes (with 0 being the "dumb slave" mode). While this mode can be trickier to deal with than the TTL-based slave mode, it does give the user the option to use this flash together with other TTL flashes regardless of brand.

In many aspects, the Tumax is the odd duck next to the beautiful swan of Nissin, but the Tumax has an ace up its sleeve. Hook it up to a DC power converter and you can shoot it without batteries for as long as you want (or until the flash melts). This I would say is the main selling point for the Tumax: hook it up to the wall and worry no more about whether you brought enough batteries or not. Assuming you're staying indoors, of course...

In summary, I would not recommend the Tumax unless you know what you're doing, but it packs a real flash beneath its rough outside and basic controls. The Nissin on the other hand is a fine flash for both beginners just starting out and pros wanting to add another light, it's cheap enough and the features are just right to allow for some serious connectivity. Zoomable flash head in manual mode would have been nice, but for the price, it's plenty flash. Besides, there's always go-bos...

UPDATE: After having used both, the Nissin far more than the Tumax, I have more and more come to think that the Tumax really falls on its own sword. It is, in fact, my least used flash. While the wall-wart option is interesting, it still suffers from the longer recharge times like other models, even when using it. Then you have to ask yourself whether it's a better option to just buy a studio strobe head straight away. (Looking around here I see an Elinchrom D-lite 2 head for less than double the price of the Tumax.)

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Happy New Year!

Barely has Christmas left us and we're already almost three weeks into 2012. I can already see that this will be one of those years that will be over before I know what happened.

Something is quite different this time though.

Going into 2012, I feel better than ever about the future. My humble collection of photography gear has grown into quite a complete setup, with which I can make almost any picture I could imagine. (Just a couple of more flashes...) My music gear continues to rate higher than my actual skill level, so that's ready for whatever I want it for. My personal life is looking quite a lot brighter than ever before, thanks to a certain someone who entered my life a while back. The only cloud on the horizon is the lack of a steady job, but for the moment that does not worry me too much.

It feels like this will be quite an interesting year..!