Strobist Video

December 14, 2009 at 5:30 pm (Equipment, Light Modifiers, Off-Camera Flash)

This isn’t my video, but it’s well worth watching, for anyone that uses off-camera flash.  Yep, that’s me, on a “bounceflash” blog.  But, hey…

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Some favorite photography sites…

December 9, 2009 at 12:51 pm (Miscellaneous)

I’ll add these to the blogroll list, but I’ve got some definite favorites in the photography world…

Zack Arias
Strobist
DPChallenge
Lighting Diagram Creator
Neil van Niekerk
Chase Jarvis
Joe McNally
Lighting Essentials

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Resurrection…

December 9, 2009 at 12:04 pm (Miscellaneous)

Wow. It’s been a YEAR since I posted here. Almost to the day.

That’s pitiful.

However, the truth is that I’ve not been taking pictures, either. There are a lot of “reasons” to that, but the biggest one is that I simply lost all confidence in my ability to make photos that someone else enjoys.

I’ve been posting a lot over at my “normal” blog, at http://www.bernardshuford.com, but nothing about photography. I’m surprised to see that people still visit THIS blog, even though it hasn’t had a new post in a long time.

I think I’ll resurrect myself, talk about some photography, and make some photos.

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Hard Drives, Rain, FedEx

December 11, 2008 at 1:45 pm (Miscellaneous)

Never have anything shipped FedEx unless you happen to live within 50 feet of the paved road.  To say nothing of the fact that you will have to wait five to six days for it.

Our local delivery guy is apparently paranoid that our driveway is only fit for snakes and crawdads.

Interesting that the UPS truck traverses it regularly, but anyway.

Thus, my new hard drive for the Ubuntu computer spent a day out in the drizzling rain. 

Praise God for light rain and plastic packaging.

So, a few days after ordering from geeks.com, my new 2.5″ drive (cheapie, rebuilt, but wonderfully better than what I had) was in the Thinkpad and being partitioned for Ubuntu.

Installation went well, the rattly noise went away, and hopefully the balky startups (the drive often had to be removed and reinstalled for the operating system to be found) are done with. 

Loving me some Ubuntu, even though video / DVD codecs are a pain the neck.  My advice – with Ubuntu, use mplayer, not Totem.  Installation of medibuntu is also required.  It’s a bit of a process, and I’m a bit of a geek.  I can’t imagine a casual computer user being able to do this, but it’s tons better than it was a few years ago when I tried Phat Linux and Red Hat and all that. 

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Shooting the Parents

December 9, 2008 at 10:46 pm (Karma Shuford Photography, Off-Camera Flash)

Ha!  That title oughtta bring in some traffic!

Tonight, Karma Shuford Photography offered a free sitting to my parents with our children.

Well, duh, they’re my parents.  Of course they get a free sitting.

And we need the practice.

Tonight’s glitch was an SB-20 that was firing but was apparently out of sync – it wasn’t lighting the background properly in the pictures.  I’ve concluded it was probably the battery in the Poverty Wizard transmitter – it appears to have never been changed since I bought the thing a couple years back.  So, until I can get a new battery and confirm that, we’ll assume that’s where the blame lies.

Another interesting “glitch” was the glare on my dad’s glasses.  I THOUGHT it was caused by the fact that we were slowing down the shutter to try to allow the SB-20 to sync and thus letting too much ambient in.  However, there’s a more complex reason, I think.  We’re using a single key light, usually to camera left, in a semi-Rembrandt lighting.  Thus, the person on camera left, who is facing slightly toward camera right, has perfectly clear glasses (see my Mom in the picture below).  However, my Dad, who is on camera right and facing left, has a different problem and thus the reflection shows up.  Lesson:  when multiple people in the shot have glasses, get them all facing so that the key light is not reflecting in their glasses.  Glad this wasn’t a paying client!

I don’t like the poses.  We need to work on some “stock” poses for couples, especially older couples.  But we worked with them a little bit.

A couple pics….

The setup

The setup

Mom and Dad

Mom and Dad

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UFRaw Plugin for GIMP

December 8, 2008 at 11:38 pm (Uncategorized)

The actual UFRaw Plugin for GIMP can be found at getdeb, and upon installing the plugin, the combination works marvelously.  I no longer see a need for DPP at all on this Ubuntu machine.

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Ubuntu Linux, WINE, and Canon DPP

December 7, 2008 at 12:25 am (Software)

Canon DPP (Digital Photo Professional), the RAW processor for Canon RAW, is my preferred method of handling RAW files from my Canon 300D.  Yes, it’s an outdated camera, but that’s irrelevant. 

However, it’s a Windows program, which causes problems for Ubuntu. 

My situation is largely one of experimentation at this point; I have a different computer that I really use for what photo processing I am doing at this point.  However, I really am interested in the options that Ubuntu offers, because I REALLY like the operating system and what Ubuntu has done with Linux. 

As a result of installing Ubuntu on this laptop, an IBM Thinkpad T30, the need for a RAW converter became obvious.  GIMP, the photo processor that I am starting to like more and more, comes with Ubuntu, but I have almost stopped shooting in JPEG mode, simply because the ability to adjust white balance and exposure in RAW is SO valuable.  

So, I set off to learn how to iinstall DPP in Ubuntu.  Various sites mentioned it as being possible, so I dove off into WINE. 

WINE basically functions as an interface for Windows programs in Linux.  To install a Windows program, WINE must be started first, then pointed at the Windows installer file.  This works pretty cleanly and I was very surprised at how the installation screens work just like Windows.  WINE apparently creates some type of “virtual C: drive” and installs the programs there.  It even puts a shortcut on the desktop for the new program.  Once the program is installed, starting it automatical fires up the WINE engine and things pretty much proceed as normal with Windoze.

After a little stumbling around the first time, I got DPP up and running pretty quickly.  I also found some “glitches” pretty quickly. 

WINE does NOT does a good job of showing and managing the directory tree that we are used to seeing on the left side of the screen in DPP.  It’s there, but it’s ugly, and it doesn’t work really well.  however, once I learned the “method” of working with it – it’s basically transparent, and some of the hierarchical folders look really strange – I have no trouble finding my files. 

After FINDING the files, though, there becomes the necessity of opening and editing the files, and it’s fairly obvious that this current machine really doesn’t have enough horsepower.  Whether it’s the noisy hard drive or the limited memory, or the processor, i don’t know.  Regardless, pictures are TERRIBLY slow loading, and I suspect it’s more of the WINE / Windows problem than it is JUST the computer. 

However, with a little patience, it does basically seem to behave. 

This has led me to explore the raw converters that are Linux native, and I’ve so far tried two – Ufraw and Rawstudio.  Ufraw is my favorite of the two, but I’ve got to work with it more to see if I like it.  Ufraw is best with white balance, but it’s really bad at previewing images.  Rawstudio, however, previews nicely but does extremely little with white balance changes. 

Both claim to have an “export to GIMP” button, but I haven’t yet made it work with either one.   As well, neither one has the “contrast” adjustment that I really like about DPP.  They do allow curves adjustment, which should be able to accomplish the same thing with a little more “work”. 

There will be more in this saga, but the basic thrust of this post is that Canon DPP does work with Ubuntu, using WINE, and that there are other raw converters available for Ubuntu.  Thus, RAW and Ubuntu are not exclusive, and for that I am thankful. 

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The Studio and some family portraits for friends

December 6, 2008 at 11:18 am (Equipment, Karma Shuford Photography, Light Modifiers, Off-Camera Flash)

This warrants a really long post, but I may be interrupted by the demands of raising children, so I’ll start out with some brief facts….

  • 9 foot roll of white Savage paper at Ball Photo – $90
  • One white umbrella – came with a set of Smith Victor lights that we have but NEVER use.
  • Tall tripod to mount the umbrella and flash – free gift from a friend at work.
  • 2 Nikon SB-20 speedlites – about $90.  Almost the greatest flashes known to man.  Working SB-24s are a little better.
  • Tripods for SB-20s – unknown cost
  • PVC stand  for paper – cost uncertain, probably about $40, plus a couple hours of time.  (Used the “stick in a bucket” method…)
  • Fotodiox optical slave – $15 at www.mpex.com
  • Umbrella bracket – $15 at www.mpex.com
  • Ebay triggers for SB-20s – maybe $40??
  • Nikon SB-24 – $50, but the doggone thing went haywire and didn’t work for the shoot
  • Bowers SFD35C flash in full power only mode, shooting into and through the umbrella.  $80 or so.
  • Lots of AA batteries.
  • One 4×8 sheet of white tile board from Lowe’s.
  • Spring clamps
  • Cardboard gobos
  • Willing subjects

Karma manned (womanned???) the camera; my job here was lighting and setup.  We set up the studio in our living room – I should have taken some setup shots, but there was one overwhelming lesson to be learned.  The lighting grip should ALWAYS verify the time of the shoot.  I somehow got it in my head that we were shooting at 7 pm, so I left work at 5:30 and breezed home and began the setup.  Only then did I learn that the shoot was at 6 pm.  Oops.  So, the “clients”, who are good personal friends of ours, had to wait a few minutes.  Luckily, we were still shooting by 6:15 or so, and all went really well with that. 

The friends are a local couple who have five children – four girls and a 1 year old boy.  Or is he two?  I can’t remember.  He’s walking, but he’s LITTLE.  The girls are extremely energetic – the oldest is ten or so?? – but they were a MARVELOUS group to shoot.  Maybe we can get permission to post a couple shots.  We couldn’t have possibly had a better group to guinea pig our studio.  Thanks so much to the Sisks.

The key problem we have had with this setup is spill from the background “hazing” over the subjects.  We still got a few shots that show some of it, but the use of the umbrellaed key light definitely solved the majority of it.

Another key lesson is to always shoot some shots with the kids on the floor looking up, so that the catch lights get in both eyes and are clear and bright.  I consider good catch lights to be a definite indicator of professional photography, so we will continue to work on this.

We really liked the results.  Using the tile board as a “floor” is an AMAZING idea – thank you SO much, Zack Arias!!!  We’ve still got “techniques” to perfect, but this was a really good start.

Camera was a Canon 30D.  All shots in RAW, processed with Canon DPP and PaintShop Pro.  That, too, is Karma’s job.  We use SmugMug for print sales, and I couldn’t possibly recommend them any higher.  They are fantastic. 

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GIMP, Ubuntu Linux, and Canon Raw

November 29, 2008 at 6:48 pm (Software)

I am currently experimenting with Ubuntu Linux on a very outdated IBM Thinkpad T30 Laptop.  So far, I have successfully installed Ubuntu in a double-boot configuration with Windows 2000 as the other operating system.  I’ve set up one of the partitions so that it is shared as storage between Ubuntu and Windows, and Ubuntu is able to read virtually anything and everything.

However, I’ve got one major difficulty facing me – how to get Canon RAW files through this system.  I can use GIMP all day long, but I can’t convert RAW yet.

My current direction is to try Canon DPP with WINE. 

I’ll keep y’all up to date.

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Happy Thanksgiving!

November 27, 2008 at 12:59 pm (Miscellaneous)

Happy Thanksgiving!

Today and tomorrow will provide a little adventure in food photography, since DPC has a speed challenge up for pics of the meal…

I’ll pop up a little bit about that later tonight, hopefully.

THANKS for reading!

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