Archive for the ‘Tips & Tricks’ Category
Some folks have written to me about hand holding cameras. I talk about it a bit at workshops and the like. (There’s a page in Clicks about it.) Seems pretty straightforward, I know, but as has been noted before, I have a tremendous capacity to state, explain and generally belabor the obvious, so at the risk of talking about yesterday’s news and telling people that which they already know, here goes.
[By the way, I’m flying right now, back from Spain, and eating on top of my laptop. When I’m working I just close the computer and put the food tray on top of it. Is that weird? I don’t know. Might be risky, I guess, but I do it often. I think I’ll be alright. The tortellini I’m scarfing is encrusted in it’s plastic dish like a bunch of barnacles below the water line of a Greek fishing vessel, and I’m having a hard time prying them outta there with my little plastic fork, so definitely no danger of spillage with these.
Could be trouble with the coffee and the water, I guess, but I’m pretty careful. I don’t think I’ll have an accident, but, just like driving in the snow, ya gotta watch out for the other guy. My neighbor seems nice enough, and not prone to sudden movements, unlike the guy who is sitting in the seat connected to my tray table who’s been trying to get comfortable for about a half an hour now, and the seat’s yakking back and forth like he’s boffing his girlfriend...]
Okay, back to the grip… First, what not to do:
Bad posture, Mr. McNally, as the Sisters of the Precious Blood used to tell me (my blood, not their’s). This type of deal is a one way ticket to the spine doc, and field fatigue. Field fatigue is something we don’t talk about much, but man, it’s there. The more tired you get, the worse your pictures are. The more compact your movements, the more comfortable you are, and the more you support the camera with your body and not just your arms, the more spry you’ll feel, even at the end of the day.
[...But my seat mate’s cool. She’s a slender female, which is great cause I’m hoggin’ the armrest like crazy. Last flight I was next to some guy who literally spilled into my seat and smelled like low tide. Couldn’t even find the frikkin’ arm rest, let alone compete for it.
Armrest comp is great. You get a couple of guys tight together for a few hours, and let the games begin! (This really occurs between guys. Most women tend not get involved in this kind of petty, machismo hoo hah.) I can always tell the ones who’ll be tough. They’re suits, mostly, and they work on PC’s and they immediately pop up a screen with, like, third quarter results, just a spreadsheet stuffed with numbers and bar graphs, and they study it real intently, like they’re a windtalker and trying to crack some kind of code...]
(Warning, warning! This camera grip is much more convenient and doable if you are left eyed and use a motor driven camera, which is obviously deeper, say, than a D70. So we’re talking a D300 with a grip, or a D3, that type of body. Also, the left eye thing. I just have always used my left eye. Dunno why.)
[...Speaking of wind, I shouldn’t complain about anybody sitting next to me, cause I'm tooting like crazy during this flight. Must be the pressure change or something. Or that double beef bean burrito I ate in Madrid before embarking.
Focusing left eyed brings your motor driven camera closer to your left shoulder. (Really Joe, no shit?!) That’s a good deal. If you swing your body around into something resembling a boxing stance, your left shoulder becomes a base, or a platform for the camera body. It also brings your center of gravity back under the camera. Also a good move.
An overhand grip might be cool if you throw a baseball for a living, but not if you shoot pictures to conjure bread on the table. That overhand grip! See it all the time. Bad news. The overhand pulls your elbow out, away from your body, like a bat wing, and meanwhile you have that ham hock of a hand laying atop the lens like a couple of pounds of ground chuck. Useless weight on the drag strip.
[Flight update….currently there is a baby screaming and a dog barking (no joke), each within five seats of mine. I noticed this lady who got onboard with a little barking rat inside of one of those mesh bags, and sure enough, he’s a yipper...]
Put the left mitt under the lens, or, if truly skinny on shutter speed whilst using a short lens, clap that puppy over your right hand gripping the camera.
[Flight update….they’re coming by with the duty free cart. All the vices, tax free. Liquor, cigarettes…surprised they’re not running a special on methamphetamine. I was thinking to myself, “Who buys this stuff?” and I got my answer. Guy four rows up just bought what looked to be an incredibly expensive woman’s watch. I know desperation when I see it. Must’ve forgotten to get something for the gf while land based and this is his last chance for something appropriately chic and European. Whew! Dodged a bullet there. If he showed up empty handed he probably wouldn’t get lucky till late fall.]
I just finished a teaching stint at PhotoWorld Manila, in the Philippines, and I can say I have never been more warmly welcomed or graciously treated by any host, at any time. The Filipino people are amazingly easygoing and friendly, and, rabidly interested in all things about digital photography. The conference was a non-stop love fest, and a non-stop laugh fest among the speakers; Eddie Tapp, Judy Host, Amy Cantrell, Ken Sklute and Hadi Doucette.
The key to the deal for me to come here was the offer to teach a lighting workshop on the island of Corregidor. Ever since I was a kid, poaching my dad’s World War II books, I have wanted to see one of these islands where so much pivotal history occurred. I was busy teaching most of the day, but I did manage one quiet walk. The huge guns and the gutted buildings are still there now, of course. But it was not hard to hear the echoes of those desperate days. So many gave their lives here. There are ghosts.
Photographically, the upside of so much untouched carnage is the patina of decay, the rust of the place. The old walls of the buildings… You would pay a backdrop painter thousands to come up with a mottled drop of such gorgeous, muted color. Unreal.
And our subjects were dancers! Put a dancer in front of my lens, and Joe be happy monkey. I feel a real affinity for dancers, actually, because, just like photographers, they are hard working, creative and underpaid. I started photographing dance years ago, by accident. I moved into a tiny studio apartment in right by Lincoln Center, the nexus of the dance world. I started seeing all these ballerinas heading for the studio to work out. “Hmmm,” I thought. “This could be a great way to meet girls…”
Over time I fell in love with the art form of ballet, its excruciating demands and exquisitely expressed forms. It is a powerful expression of living, breathing art. I also made a habit of taking ballerinas into unexpected venues, like the NYC subway.
[More from the Philippines after the jump]
To all for such a gracious welcome to the blog world. I promise to try to keep it going, and stay lively, win, lose or draw. Just doing this is a big deal for me, and I gotta admit some stuff here. First, I ain’t the most organized or responsible person on the face of the planet. Also, I’m a big time day dreamer. (Some picture ideas come out of those day dreams, to be sure. I guess I’ve always wondered if I could get paid for day dreaming, you know, charge a client a half day research fee if you thought about their job in the shower, for instance. Hmmm.)
And, I suck at the computer. I’m getting better, but the idea of being real, real good at this machinery is probably one of those things that ain’t gonna happen to me, like playing center for the Knicks.
I’m learning, though, from a guy named… Brad. Brad is our first assistant both in the studio and in the field, our IT person, go to guy, all around organizer, and the one who calms me down when I start hitting the computer with a hammer and screaming, “Make the little pictures come out!!!!”
You might occasionally get a response from Brad to a post. He’s a good guy. He actually lives with us, us being me and my wife Annie. He has his own apartment downstairs, comes and goes as he pleases, and we never hear him when he’s down there cleaning D3 sensors and watching Office Space.
[Many more thanks after the jump]…
A fence is just a fence….unless you have an SB-800.
Flash has always been painful, right? Especially painful in the cold. Really, really painful in the kind of cold that exists in Yellowstone National Park in January. Batteries dying, trying to meter the sky, meter the flash, meter your diminishing heart rate…
Now we have wireless strobe! Pretty fancy stuff. Cameras and strobes keep talking to each other, even when you can’t say a bloody thing cause your teeth are chattering like Carmen Miranda’s castanets.
I’ve been doing these training videos on location light for my buddy Scott Kelby. They’ve been a ton of fun to do and, at first glance, I’m even mildly coherent. Click here to preview the lessons and site. If you can get past my visual appearance (hump, twitch in the left eye, constant drooling), there’s a fair amount of ground we cover about lighting both in the studio and on location, and using both large strobes and small, hot shoe flashes.
First one is up, and I take a look at light shaping tools from umbrellas (shoot through, reflected), to large and small softboxes, direction of light, methods of softening the light to achieve a good portrait look, to using a second strobe to provide fill and a bit of glamour. We chew through a bunch of stuff in the studio, some times being successful, and sometimes not, making adjustments, trying different stuff, even a quick ring light set, and then at the end of the day, real time, chasing the fading sunset, we do a seat of the pants strobe set on the beach with Jennifer Concepcion, a truly magnificent ballerina.