Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Catching Up After 1-1/2 Years

It has been over 1-1/2 years since I posted on this blog ... life has a way of creeping up on us.  In that time I have retired from my "Day Job" in IT as the University of California at Santa Barbara after over 36 years and am now a pensioner.  And unexpectedly, my life has just gotten busier in most ways.  But I find that I am being asked more and more for my opinion on 'stuff', such as Lightroom vs. Photoshop, the Canon 5D Mark III (generally high marks), the Canon 1DX (not such high marks yet!) and the like. I am still the House Photographer for the Entertainment Department (I believe the names have changed but no one is telling me) at the Chumash Casino Resort in Santa Ynez, California, where I shoot weekly events.

I have a fan page on Facebook: Dwight McCann Digital Imagery where I tend to post pictures from events in addition to my personal website: Dwight McCann.com that has a lot of images from the past eight years.

I am also beginning on expanding my business.  I have unexpectedly found that I like shooting maternity, families, children, portraits and all those things more commonly found in photographers in addition to the concerts, boxing, poker tournaments and VIP events that I have been doing for so long. And I'm still interested in fashion/glamor although it is pretty clear that there is no profit in it in my area ... out in the sticks of the California Central Coast.

Next time I'll start my discussion of Lightroom vs. Photoshop for the neophyte, a discussion that came up at my sixth annual POTN Photographers' BBQ when I was asked which program one should use or was better by one of the newer photographers.  The answer, of course, has to do with what you're after, but you have to know what they do to make that decision. I personally use both since they really supply different services as I'll explore in segments.  For those who don't like to wait, the short answer is Lightroom unless you need Photoshop! :-)

Travel Safe!


Saturday, January 01, 2011

Strobist Style Shooting on New Year's Eve at the Chumash Casino Resort

Last night I photographed the New Year's Eve Dance Party at the Chumash Casino Resort & Spa in Santa Ynez, California, a free event the casino puts on each year. After some experimentation it seems that they have settled on the Spazmatics and The Boogie Knights, 70's and 80's bands, each of whom does two sets, ending up together on stage at midnight. There is a ton of confetti fired off during the night, hats and noise makers provided, a couple of projection screens of the action and dancing girls provided by Doug Young of Team Dazzle. Here's a view of the Samala Room taken from the back of the room. [Please note: you can click on any image in this blog entry to bring up the full size image that also includes EXIF and IPTC data]:

You can see the two blue people at either end of the stage. They are the dancing girls. And the light they are provided makes getting images tricky, particularly since they are dancing. A couple of years ago I decided to bring strobes and wound up placing them on the corners of the small runway they use, right on the floor. Naturally, the light was shooting straight up their noses and wasn't particularly appealing. So this year I decided to begin experimenting with alternatives. The first thing I wanted to do was get the lights up higher rather than shooting from floor level. And since the base lighting is incandescent I also wanted to warm up the flash temperature a bit.

The first problem, getting the light up higher was complicated by the crowd surrounding the front of the stage and the runways. There was no place to put a light stand where it wouldn't get trashed during the crowd dancing ... and by midnight there's barely room to breath! Fortunately I have some experience with remote shooting and the use of Bogen Variable Friction Arms to mount equipment so that's what I decided to use to hold that flash systems. For each of the two strobes I mounted a Bogen Superclamp on the railing that runs down the side of the the runway. Here's what a Superclamp and Variable Friction Arm look like [please note that this is not a Magic Arm which has a lever rather than the knob of the Variable Friction Arm ... the Variable Friction Arm is much superior to the Magic Arm.] When the knob is released, all the joints of the Variable Friction Arm relax so that the stubs at the ends which are on ball heads can swivel and there is a slot in the side of the casing that allows for 90 degree angles, the ball cases themselves can rotate and the joint where the knobs screws through can swing: this all provides a substantial bit of flexibility.

For strobes, I use Canon 580EX II Speedlites [of which I have three as well as a 270EX.]

Since most use I make of the Speedlites is remote which makes them very awkward to access to replace batteries in mid-shoot, I have a Quantum SC Battery for each strobe.

For the purpose of warming up the light from the flash to approximate tungsten, I have a Lumiquest gel kit that includes CTO filters for this purpose. And since I also mount a FlipIt from time to time I didn't want to permanently attach Velcro to the flash so I also have a Lumiquest Ultrastrap for each strobe.

The big issue at this point is triggering the strobes. I have long used PocketWizards. In my studio I have four Plus II's (I often have other photographers shooting and it is much easier to simply have extras rather than passing one around and taking a chance on missing a shot.) But they don't allow you much control, so for remote triggering of strobes I use a TT1 on camera and a TT5 for each strobe.

The USA version of the Canon flavor TT5's are heavily adversely affected by the radio frequency noise generated by the 580EX II's. This caused significant embarrassment for PocketWizard during the birthing of this product. While their system is conceptually miraculous with all the features it provides, the EMP problem has been huge and they have been slow, first to admit the extent of it, and second to provide solutions. But both issues are now pretty much resolved. The fixes for the problem rely on shielding of the strobe from the TT5. Pocketwizard provided the AC5 soft shield initially and now also provides the AC7 hard shield. While the AC7 provides some nice mounting features, it sadly was subject to significant design errors, particularly if, like me, you normally use the units with exterior power adapters. Without detailing the problems, let me just point out that all three of my AC7's have been modified by Gary McDuffy, Jr., to allow external power and to provide access to the swivel release when the strobe is mounted in the AC7.

On a related note, I experienced a similar problem with the Plus II's and my Bowens QUADX Studio Flash generators. Neither Bowens nor PocketWizard would even respond to my request for assistance with the very frequent firing failures. I was very fortunately to discover online another photographer who had the same problem and did get some help from LPA and the problem is resolved by putting a ferrite choke on the cable from PocketWizard to generator. Since I was also told that Bowens was clearly apprised of the issue and simply said, "Buy our remote triggers!" I am way less than pleased with Bowens. You can read about other major failures by Bowens in my earlier blogs.

The AC7 provides two mounting points as well as an umbrella holder. The Lumiquest Gel system must be attached prior to fitting the strobe into the AC7 due to access restrictions.

Once the strobe with gel kit is mounted in the AC7, a stub is screwed in and tightened. Then a TT5 is attached to the adapter mount as shown in the following image:

And here's an image of the whole setup ready to mount on the rail. The stub (round silver post with inside threading and one flat side) is inserted into the Superclamp at an angle that provides solid support.

Here is an image where you can see the placement of the two strobes, the far strobe mounted out from the top rail and the near strobe mounted on the bottom rail and the handrail:

And finally, the image outcome:

While I thought this experiment was a pretty much a success, I had to dial back the flash exposure compensation over two stops while using E-TTL and expect I would have been much happier if I had used my AC3 Zone Controller and manual flash control, but that was one variable too many for this first field experiment.

All images provided for this blog entry are copyright by me so please don't use them without permission/licensing from me. Please do feel free to ask any questions about anything involved with this entry.

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

UPS: Updated Enhanced Tracking Information

I just wanted to advise that UPS tracking information has been enhanced so that when they miss their delivery date rather than have a delivery date days earlier than today without being delivered they now blank out the delivery date so we can't see how many days late they are.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Adorama Fails Again!

Several years ago I submitted a couple of orders to Adorama on the internet. After they took my money no merchandise showed up in the expected time. When I contacted them I was told the items were backordered so I canceled. After two or three rounds of this I realized that Adorama was neither forthcoming or reliable and I stopped ordering from them and stuck to B&H.

About a month ago they had a good deal on a Hensel MPG 1500 battery pack. I debated. I poked around for recent reviews of Adorama. Most people seemed to like them. So I ordered. Then I found out that the image of the item they were selling was meant for Europe, not the USA. I tried to cancel the order. Not possible. But it also didn't ship as advertised, same day, but rather took several days to 'get it from another store.' Same old story, sigh. Misrepresentations.

So, correct power pack arrives. Turns out one battery is defective out of the box. I contact Adorama expecting an RMA and shipping label. They tell me I'm on my own and give me Hensel's telephone number which appears to be just an answering machine. That's the end of my dealings with Adorama.

I now await word from Hensel.

I have never had any such problems with B&H. Reminds me of all the problems I've had with UPS and never any problems with FedEx. Some companies know what they are doing and some just want to maximize their profit.

Friday, March 05, 2010

Jennifer Wu is Coming Back to LIGHT! Part II

I just chatted with Victoria, wife of the intrepid Hal, at Light Photographic Workshops in Los Osos, about the upcoming Jennifer Wu macro and field photography and wildflowers: that I will be attending and there are still some seats left. I'm drumming up business for Jennifer because like Kevin Ames at another Light Photographic Workshops seminar I took, Jennifer changed the way I shoot in the field ... and I am very reluctant to change at my age! She turned me into a great believer in using Live View for focusing in the field with the aid of a Hoodloupe for one thing ... I didn't bother with Live View for anything prior to that and now I find myself using it for all sorts of jobs. She also got me much more fluid in my exposure bracketing for outdoor HDR images and panoramas.

Since the last workshop I have acquired a 1DMIV that I will bring along with my 1DsMIII. In preparation for this workshop I bought a 100mm f/2.8L IS macro lens, a 77mm Singh-Ray Vari-ND 2-8 stop filter, a set of Cokin holders and adapters and some graduated ND filters including the infamous Tobacco shade and a Gitzo GT12540EX w/RRS BH-40 Balll Head w/Quick Release to get the camera up close and personal. I'll also bring my 180mm f/3.5L macro to share.

And Jennifer has promised to help me learn to focus my 24mm TS-E lens in the field.

So, if you're an aspiring macro, flower, landscape, outdoor photographer type who loves hands on instruction with the best there is then this is a class for you. And with all the rain we've had there are already tons of wildflowers bursting forth in the central coast. Just hop on out to the LPW Website at http://www.lightworkshops.com/ and sign up or look around.

[Disclaimer: I am not compensated in any way for posts about LPW or Jennifer Wu ... I just like 'em!]

Friday, January 22, 2010

Jennifer Wu is Coming Back to LIGHT!

I know I have been neglecting my blog again but I have been very busy as well as getting hooked on Facebook, which is a huge time sink. But I have great plans to discuss the tons of new equipment, studio upgrades and projects I'm into, as well as share about experiences.

However, this entry is to make sure you know about Jennifer Wu's upcoming workshop at Light Photographic Workshops in the middle of March. She's coming back, armed for bear, to show us her award winning techniques for doing macros and wildflowers! And in this neck of the woods there are going to be plenty of wildflowers in the Spring given all the rain we're having.

In preparation for this workshop I have acquired a 1DMIV (actually, I got to shoot concerts and boxing, but I'm bringing it), the new Canon 100mm f/2.8L IS macro, Canon MT-24 dual head macro flash, lightweight Gitzo tripod with cross bar (I can't remember the number but I'll post it in another entry), Singh-Ray Vari-ND neutral density filter, Cokin Z-pro filter holder and various size adapters, a Hoodman Hood Loupe (as a result of my last Wu class) and a 24mm f/3.5L TS-E lens (also as a result of my last Wu class.)

If you recall, Jennifer got me into shooting with Live View on a tripod for landscapes, using the Hood Loupe to fine tune focus using the 5x and 10x magnification options. I was really appreciative because I shoot bracketing and mirror lock-up which is a pain unless you do use Live View. So, now I'm ready for her.

"Flowers and Macro Field Photography" will be March 15-19th at the Light Photographic Workshops digital darkroom training facility in Los Osos, California, but I expect we will be off into the field a great deal of that time. I am hoping to remember to take BTS (behind the scenes) photos so you can see more of this superwoman in action.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

LIGHT Photographic Workshops: Canon Field Photography with Jennifer Wu: HDR Follow Up

It's been a while since I wrote about the amazing three day weekend with Jennifer Wu in which I suggested that I might have some material for prints, so I thought I should get back over here and show a couple of examples. The two I have in hand are both HDR versions of images, one published previous as non-HDR and one not. They are both photographs taken at Midnight Cellars where Hal is a winemaker up in SLO county. The first is simply the HDR:

The second image I am going to show first the best single of the seven exposures in the series and then the HDR from the seven exposures combined in Photomatix Pro and touch a bit in Lightroom.

I'm impressed! I expect that I'll spend a bit of time determining how to print them when my new Epson 7900 and 4880 printers arrive.

Travel Safe,