This blog is my attempt to keep track of some of the things I learn along the way, with my Canon 7D, G12 and accessories. All images copyright Brad Calkins, not to be used without permission (or purchase). I do not attempt to monetize my blog, other than to promote my stock photo portfolio on Dreamstime.

Thursday, January 31, 2008

New Grey Card from Robin Myers Imaging

Yesterday I got my new grey card in the mail from Robin Myers Imaging. It looks visibly different from my old Kodak grey card. I took a test shot with the WB custom set to the RM card (bottom), but with my Kodak card in the photo as well. I though it would be interesting to go into Photoshop and see what the grey card from Kodak comes up as, when the RM card is white balanced. As you can see, they are visibly different. I've put the RGB values next to each card. You can see that the Kodak card is not neutral, and would result in a blue cast if used to white balance. Looking forward to doing some test shots with people to see the difference.

It is also much more durable - more plastic like and supposedly waterproof and washable. Price was about the same too, but the RM card is much smaller than what was in the Kodak package.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Sites to learn from

There are so many great resources on the web, but a couple that I checked out recently:

The first I found clicking through the latest Strobist favourites, the other reading through some Flickr groups: Canon Speedlite. Finally, George Barr is a fellow Calgarian, so I've been following his blog for a while. Lots of discussion on the process of taking photos in the first place, and the things that run through a photographer's mind. He has just released a book on improving the WAY you think about taking photos that is refreshing (finally, a photo book without a section on equipment).

I also got a couple of books for Christmas. I'll be posting some workflow tips sooner or later. My current assignment is to improve the color of skin in my photos. I'm missing something on the white balance thing. One thing I found out from the 'Skin' book is that the grey card I have is not neutral for white balance, but for exposure. Didn't occur to me that the two were different. I suspect that it isn't THAT off (more me than the grey card), but for the cost of a new grey card I'm going to replace it. The new one will be waterproof as well, which is nice. I tend to avoid getting out the grey card I have now in rainy conditions.

One aspect of white balance I don't quite get is that everywhere you set white balance there are two dimensions - color temp. and tint. But on my 20D you only set color temp in the Kelvin preset. My question is twofold:

1. Is tint in the camera accessible through the crazy, joystick controller color adjustment thingy - or not at all?
2. When I use the built in white balance feature to set a custom white balance is it just picking up color temp, or tint as well?

In auto, as reported in Camera RAW or Capture One I see a different tint and color temp from shot to shot. I need to shoot a couple of pictures to convince myself that tint is or is not picked up in the custom white balance modes.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Image Stabilization (IS) with EOS lenses

I have two IS lenses, the 17-55 and the 70-200. Here are my observations on IS:

1. I can't stop people with anything slower than 1/60th of a second, when it comes to my kids. At a wedding I did last summer, the bride and groom were more static so 1/30th seemed fine. The rule of thumb is that you can't handhold below 1/Focal Length for a lens. Using 35mm equivalents, I should be using 1/60th or faster for a 40mm lens. Therefore, IS is useless to me for focal lengths below 40mm (for people shots). In reality, I never use IS with my 17-55 for moving people shots. Works great for sleeping babies, though Max sleeping. IS really shines with a longer lens like the 70-200. I can shoot at 200mm with 1/60th of a second and get sharp shots.

2. IS is great when you want to get a long ambient exposure combined with flash. I took some shots at Halloween where my family was lit by flash, with great ambient lit buildings in the background. I use this a lot with the 17-55.

3. Depth of field can be extended for landscapes. When shooting with a 20mm lens at 1/30 f/4, you could go down to f/8 and drop the shutter down to 1/8s. This would otherwise be too slow to hold and require a tripod.

4. Canon makes the claim that viewing through an IS lens is better than sensor stabilization because you can see the effect. I would agree on a long lens. I can compose better with a stable viewfinder image. With the wider lens it isn't a significant factor. In a perfect world I would support sensor stabilization for use will all lenses, but probably put the IS into long lenses. This would minimize lens cost for the photographer.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Horsing Around

Tried to do a little multi light setup tonight. From the setup shot you can see the 580EX fired into a 32" silver umbrella, a 430EX on the table bottom right, 'snooted' through two books (too lazy to get out the cereal box yet), and a silver reflector to the right of the subject (toy horse).

This is a shot with just the umbrella flash:

Here is the same shot with the reflector in place:

Finally, with teh 430EX snooted light fired at the back of the horse's head:

One thing I realized is that the umbrella really spills the light, as can be seen by the otherwise unlit background, which is really quite grey (not black).

This one I took later, with the reflector moved behind, and the 430EX fired at the reflector with a red gel:

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Question for Canon Flash users

I have found that the STE-2 has some differences in use compared to using the 580EX as the master. The biggest annoyance I have is that I can't see how to set the 580EX on the camera to manual and still trigger the second flash on ETTL. What I am trying to do is create the smallest amount of fill flash possible (say 1/64 or 1/128 power), but having the ETTL do its job with a 2nd flash set to bounce off the ceiling. The Canon body and/or flashes only let me go to -3 EV on ETTL, which I find isn't enough when the subject is close to the camera, especially if the bounced flash is far away.

I CAN set the bounced flash to manual and achieve what I want, but it doesn't automatically adjust for distance as I move around a room...

[I did have a question in here about using the flash ratio with the 580EX on the camera, and thought I might be missing something. Turned out I was, the ratio does work with the 580 on the camera as group A, in Canon terminology]

Canon flash ratio with STE-2, 580EX and 430EX

I recently acquired a new 430EX flash to go with my 580EX and STE-2 transmitter. Since one of the things I can now do is balance the two flashes while still in E-TTL, I decided to do a quick test with a typical sample subject. I haven't found many examples on the web, so I wanted to post these as an example of what you can do using the STE-2 - which seems to get a bad rap on the various off camera sites compared to the pocket wizard (dg28 excepted).

The poinsettias have a similar problem to a person's face - when you use bounce flash off the ceiling, there are shadows in the areas that can't 'see' the light from the flash. This is typical of a person's eye sockets. I therefore added my second flash to hit the flowers from the front, while my second flash bounced off the ceiling. I took a series of 7 shots to go from 8:1 through 1:8. You can see how the fill flash on the leaves goes from non-existent to overpowering as I run through the ratios. Also the room in the background gets less and less lit as the front flash goes up in comparison.

8:1 (bounce to fill)

This one is getting some detail in the leaves underneath, but starting to cast shadows on the leaves as well. I had the flash to the left of the camera so this could be avoided if I had put the flash on axis, and slightly above the camera position.




Here is a quick setup shot, with the front flash shown on the couch next to my camera position. The other flash is on the end of the fireplace mantel - next to the lampshade. My exposure was short enough in shutter speed to not pick up any ambient light in the shot.