What Does This Smell Like?

What Does This Smell Like?, originally uploaded by paggre.

What else is there to say about this. He loves to collect flowers for Mommy. So I asked him to let me take a picture of Mommy's flowers. And this is what he did. Great stuff.

Please critique if you have time.


I Already Posed For 2 Pictures

I Already Posed For 2 Pictures, originally uploaded by paggre.

This is the look I get a lot of times. At least he will pose at all because in the past he would run like the wind every time I brought out the camera.

This is using my new shoot-thru umbrella. Not much to add here other than balancing the key light from the umbrella with the rim lighting from the sun. I am liking the soft shadows. The umbrella is literally just out of the frame to the left.


If I Could Just Get This Apart

If I Could Just Get This Apart, originally uploaded by paggre.

Getting a chance to play with my Christmas shoot-thru umbrella. A 43" I think. Very nice. I have had trouble distinguishing between the shoot-thru and my silver reflective one. The shadows may be a bit softer since you can put the umbrella right next to the subject. Thereby, making a larger apparent size of the light source. Ha, something I learned on the Strobist. Larger apparent size of the light source the softer the transition area becomes.

The other very nice thing is that even though the shoot-thru is less efficient at transmitting light, you still get a higher aperture for a given power setting since you can get the source closer to the subject. So here I have f7.1 @ 1/4 power. With the silver umbrella, I only get f5.6 at the same power.

Nice pose here. He is trying to get an alien apart from Ben10 that he got for Christmas. So we are both playing with Christmas toys.


Christas Morning HONL Grid Spot

Christas Morning, originally uploaded by paggre.

I love this shot. I know there is a box in the lower right corner. I didn't think it was trivial to remove it in Gimp because of the gradient falloff from the new grid that I got for Christmas. So anyway, it doesn't bother me much. He is holding up his loot from his stockings and he likes to wear my hearing protection from the garage. Don't have an explanation for that.

Oh yeah, the new grid. I had been working on making a DIY straw grid but I ran into some troubles. First, the strobist DIY kit didn't have enough straws to finish a grid for the 285HV. The head is bigger than anything Canon or Nikon is making. So then I figured I could just go buy some more black straws. Nope. Wal-Mart, Michael's, Party Outlet, Bed Bath and Beyond, NOPE. No black straws anywhere. We went to Olive Garden one time. They had them but you can only jack so many straws at a time. Anyway I have two partially constructed straw grids.

So I asked for the HONL speed strap and a 1/4" grid spot for Christmas. They are very nice. Good construction and now I've thrown away my DIY's. You can see the nice circle on this shot from the grid. I have it mounted on my Canon 540EZ @ 1/16th power.

If you have ideas on how to approach removing that box, I would love to hear them.


Christmas Morning.

So here are a couple shots from Christmas morning at our house. I totally stole (borrowed) this idea from http://strobist.com. What a great tip. I used my 3 flashes to light the entire room so that no matter where you run with your presents, you can't hide from decent light. So I had my Vivitar 285HV, Canon 540EZ, and Sunpak 411 all at 1/2 power. We have a "great room" that is a long rectangle with vaulted ceilings. I placed them in a triangle formation and bounced them all off the ceiling.

Like David Hobby says on his post, the light isn't all that interesting, but in my opinion it does a great job of capturing an event like this. You know that everyone will be in this room but you don't know exactly where and NO one will care about posing.

Give it a try for the next birthday party or something.

Be blessed.

My Girls

My Girls, originally uploaded by paggre.

I know this is a re-post, but this is my most popular photo so far on flickr. I suppose it made most interesting at some point during the day that I uploaded it. I do not even know what that means. So how does a photo become interesting? Who decides? Anyway I think it is a great photo of my best favorite girls.

I took this using the natural light from a big window that is almost always perfect for portraits. It opens under the covered back porch so it is blocked from direct sunlight except for about 1/2 hour just after sunrise. I have been doing a lot of flash photography lately and it was nice to put on the 50mm 1.8 and just shoot away with natural light.

It has to be the eyes. I did some gaussian blurring on a few layers but left the eyes very sharp. So thanks all you flickerites. They are beautiful aren't they?


A Day At The Zoo

A Day At The Zoo, originally uploaded by paggre.

I thought this would make a nice shot with the furry monkey being backlit. I took the picture. When I looked at the LCD, I thought, humm. Not exactly what I thought. Didn't think it looked like much on the small screen. So not until I opened it up on the computer was I satisfied with it.


Latest Family Photos

Here are a few shots from my most recent family photo session. Very happy with these. I took these photos in their home. That worked out well because everyone is relaxed. It is very frustrating when you have to get everyone ready, in the car, and off to the portrait studio. You get there and they are always running late. By the time it is your turn, everyone has been ready to leave for a long time. So you say "Smile! So we can get out of here!".

The idea was some family photos for Christmas. But we went with the flow. Dad wanted a photo with his dog who is getting up in years. The girls wanted individual portraits to use on MySpace etc. So we took a bunch of shots.

Lighting is definitely a challenge in this impromptu situation. Especially when you are not a pro. Thanks to the Strobist for what I do know. I took some against a dining room wall that had a neutral color. Took some with the Christmas tree in the background. We also took some out on the dock over the river. But I personally liked these with the black background the best. We were able to position everyone with their backs to the living room so that I could work above ambient and acheive the black background. We tried using a hallway but my umbrella was lighting that.

So for all of these shots I had my umbrella for the key light and handheld my cheapo autoshade for the fill light. I borrowed one of the non-subjects to hold the Canon 540EZ for the accent light in all but the picture with Mom and Dad. I didn't make a conscience to do that. In fact, I didn't even think to use the accent light until the girls wanted their individual portraits. But I think it worked well. The accent light adds a bit of an edge. The photo is a bit more formal without it.

So anyway let me know what you think if you time.

Be blessed.


Sitting By The Sea

Sitting By The Sea, originally uploaded by paggre.

It was a great sky so I thought I could get a good sunrise photo. But I have not found a good subject for the foreground. So as I was floundering around taking photos of a sky and ocean, I noticed this guy. I took the photo in color but it didn't really add anything so I de-saturated it. I burned in on his shirt to add some detail.


More Family Portraits

More Family Portraits, originally uploaded by paggre.

Christmas family portrait for our friends. I have a 285HV into a silver umbrella, camera left @ 1/2 power. For fill, a silver autoshade @ camera right. A bare 540EZ gelled red for some background fill to the right of the Christmas tree. That spot is actually our front door. We covered it with a dark green comforter to give some place to shoot the flash.

I think this came out well. If I had another chance I would have dragged the shutter to let those Christmas tree lights burn in just a little more. Maybe opened the framing a little. But overall good I think. Everyone is looking.

What do you think?


My Girls

My Girls, originally uploaded by paggre.

I love this shot. Natural light with a fast lens. I really enjoy flash photography. But it is so nice to not have to set up an umbrella and flash and just take some photos. This is ISO400 1/80s @ f1.8.

I am still in search of the "tired" face. So check back regularly to see if I get it. Tried last night. She had been doing it non-stop for like 10 minutes. So I got my lighting bag out of the car, set up, and she didn't do it once. I didn't miss her do it. She just stopped doing it.


Fall Road

Fall Road, originally uploaded by paggre.

This is a shot that I took in Maryland on a hike one evening. To me it was just so so out of the camera. So I tweaked it in the gimp. Adjusted the levels, slightly sharpened, added the vignette. Now I like it. What do you think?


Fall In Florida

Fall In Florida, originally uploaded by paggre.

Yes this is as good as it get for fall colors in Florida. A few oak leaves and some leaves from our sickly lemon tree (it may actually be a lime tree, we aren't sure because we have only harvested 1 fruit from it since we have lived here).

Oh yeah, photography. So I saw this vignette example in Popular Photography I think. Maybe it was Outdoor Photographer. Not sure. Wow I am really helpful huh? I don't really have Photoshop. I downloaded the 30 day trial. So I am trying to do as much as I can for the limited amount of time. I also downloaded Lightroom's trial as well. I like it all so far. Honestly though, short of adjustment layers, I can do almost everything in Gimp. I know that Photoshop does non-destructive editing but I haven't seen a problem using Gimp. So maybe one of you can point out to me what I do not understand about this.


Everybody Wants To Be Like Mike

Everybody Wants To Be Like Mike, originally uploaded by paggre.

Continuing with the theme of trying to capture those expressions that my wife and I see everyday but they only last for a second, here is a shot taken the same night as the previous post. She has been doing this one for a week or so. Still not the one I am after. But very cute!

This one was taken with the same setup as the previous post: 1 285HV into silver umbrella @ 1/2 power. I know, it is getting old. Maybe there is no need to continue listing the equipment since I don't have anything new.

Cactus Triggers
By the way, I am using the Cactus V2s triggers. There is much discussion on the web concerning these. Lots of talk about reliability. My experience with them has been very positive. I have had probably 5 to 10 fail-to-fires out of thousands of shots. Now granted, the failures have happened during a paid shoot in a fast-food restaurant. Interference from all the electronics I'm sure. I didn't bother changing channels which may have helped. It only failed a few times and I didn't miss anything. I am just not able to shell out the bucks for pocket wizards.


One Light Portrait

Smile, originally uploaded by paggre.

This is my favorite type of photo to take. Or maybe it is the one that I take most often. Trying to capture candid photos with off-camera lighting is challenging. I have tried a setting up my equipment with multiple lights and then coaxing my kids into the zone. Works sometimes. But I really want to capture those faces that just happen from day to day. When I go man I wish I had my camera. So having one light and an umbrella is easy to move around while the kiddos are playing. Especially with radio triggers. There are no cables to trip over and get angry with.

So I was trying to capture another face that she has been making for the past few days. She did it once with her hands in front of her face. Arghh. So I did get this great happy face.

I move the umbrella in close. Take a couple test shots, checking for blown highlights. Then just wait for her to do something cute. That's photography for me today.


My First Family Portrait Shoot

My first family portrait shoot for friends. I was very happy with the results. I hope they are as well. I got there early to look around and set up. I got my equipment all put together and started taking some test shots to determine ambient/flash ratios.

I ended up setting the 285HV into the silver umbrella at 1/2 power to get f5.6. I am very comfortable with the on light portrait. . .because it is only one light. I tried the bare Canon 540EZ for rim light on two of the photos seen here. Added some nice separation on the shadow side.

We were down by the river and kept getting gusts of wind. One knocked over my umbrella. The umbrella hit first then rolled over for the flash to hit. Vivitar is fine. Umbrella was bent up a bit but I was able to carefully bend it back enough to be functional.

A good experience and I think we got some very good photos. Please critique if you have time.

My Other Hobby

My Other Hobby, originally uploaded by paggre.

So my other hobby is woodworking. I need to look at this as another thing to photograph more often. So, to that end, here is a miter fixture that I made. I got the plans from Woodsmith Shop on TV. I added a plexiglass guard to it as I do with all fixtures. I have good reason since I got bit by this saw a while back. God saw fit to let me keep my thumb so I took that as a reminder to be more safe.

Two lights here. The usual 285HV into silver umbrella @ 1/4 power for the key light from high camera right. Then the 540EZ bare @ 1/32 power for accent light under the table saw.


Where's the color?

Where's the color?, originally uploaded by paggre.

I love this little kiddo. She is such a punkin' and what a great model. She is the only one that I have that will stay still for more than 6.5 ms.

So I have been taking black and white lately. It is actually very different. I tend to look for great colors for taking photos. At the detriment of composition I'm sure. So a new world opens up when you aren't thinking about color. More concentration on light quality and quantity, composition, expression of the subject.

So the next time you are in a room lit with fluorescents that you are not in control of, switch to black and white. See what happens.


I did my first commercial work. If you are in the food business and are tired of entering your temperature data by hand, you need this system: Temp Taker.

So I am using the plexiglass over a black table. This works nicely because it reflects whatever you set up for the background. I have been looking for a piece of black granite to use but this is cheaper I think. Anyway, I had the plexi laying around and read about this from Strobist or possibly DIY Photography.

The photo with the red background uses a 285HV into a silver umbrella for the key light. There is also a gelled Sunpak 411 for the background. My fedex reflector is providing fill.

The shot with the black background uses the 285HV into a silver umbrella for the key light. The Sunpak 411 handles the rim light. The fedex box is the fill and creates the nice specular highlight on the LCD screen.

For post processing I cleaned up dust on the unit. Used a little unsharpen mask for sharpening (that one still baffles me).

Please critique if you have time. And remember to order a few Temp Takers.

Well I haven't posted many pics of this little one. I've been trying to get ideas on posing a little baby. I like this one. I have a 285HV in an umbrella high above with a silver autoshade reflecting into her face from the floor in front of her. I also have a bare 540EZ to camera left giving a bit more definition to that side.

I did a bit of post-processing on this one to remove some dried food etc. I use the gimp. It is a photoshop-like tool that is free. I like that. It is not a complete replacement, but for most people I think it is more than enough of an editor. I look forward to the gimp including adjustment layers. So first I used the healing tool to clear up her skin. Next I duplicated that layer and added gaussian blur. I applied a layer mask and revealed the sharp eyes beneath the blurred layer.

Please give a critique if you have time.

Air And Space

Here are a few shots that I made in the Smithsonian Air & Space Museum. This was my first time seeing DC. I remember having a huge photobook of the museum when I was a kid. I would stare at those aircraft and spaceships for hours and think how cool it would be to be there. So thankfully I had a chance. We only had about half a day and that is not nearly enough to take it in but just looking around was great. We also caught a little of the Art Museum as well as the Natural History Museum and the Smithsonian Castle.

I only have two lenses: the kit-lens is a 28-135IS and a 50 1.8. I chose to leave the 50 on the whole time since we were mostly inside. I was able to get really sharp results @ ISO 800, f1.8. The light level is typically very low in the museums.

Color balance is also a challenge because there is a mix of natural light through windows and various combinations of incandescent, fluorescent, and led's. I found myself switching between incandescent and cloudy all day with good results.

Please give a critique if you have time.

A Snoot On The Playground

I am very happy with these. Have tried this before without the success because I didn't balance the ambient very well. The snooted source is very harsh if you are working very far above the ambient. So you need to use the ambient to fill in the shadows. I found 2 stops to be too much so these were like 1 1/3 or 1 2/3 stops down for the ambient.

I had made a cardboard snoot covered in gaffers tape. What I don't like about that one is that you are not able to change the size of the opening. These are done with the foam snoot. Nice because it is inexpensive and infinitely configurable. So I used an opening about half the size of the 285 flash head.

I also really like how the grain of the wood pops out with the flash.

So go out and try some flash photography!

Summer Fun

Summer Fun, originally uploaded by paggre.

Livin' life. Tried this idea with a few backgrounds. Kept moving around trying to find something with some color. Tried the fence, not too exciting. Too much sky, nothing going on there either. I just like the green background.


I'm Cute Alright!

I'm Cute Alright!, originally uploaded by paggre.

Ah yes. The elusive Eli. It is rare to capture this one in his natural habitat. This one of the few photographs in the world of this particular species, boyus insanicus maximus.

While my older son has this whole photography thing down, this one runs like the wind when Daddy breaks out the camera. "No! Not take my pictur!" is the typical response. So this capture is a treat. I set up the lighting and do a few test shots before I bring in the "talent". Then I put something on the floor like a piece of paper and ask them to stand on it so that they are in the right spot.

So here I have my usual setup: 1 285HV into silver umbrella @ 1/4 power camera left. Silver Wal-Mart autoshade camera right. Sunpak 411 @ 1/2 power for background. Again with the dark green comforter for the backdrop.

Please critique if you have time.


At The Beach

At The Beach, originally uploaded by paggre.

Went to the beach last night to capture a moonrise. Those pics aren't posted because well, they stunk up the joint. But the trip was worth it to hang out with my little buddy. The colors of the sunset are really amazing. You read about waiting for these magic moments when the light is just right. They do happen. Amazing to think how often we miss them because of the business of living.

Please critique if you have time.



Sweet., originally uploaded by paggre.

My wife came to get me last night as she woke our daughter up for eats. She had this really cute pose. It is obviously very tough being a little girl as evidenced by the stress and anxiety displayed in this photo.

Lighting here is a cruddy compact flourescent bulb in a floor lamp. It does provide some nice soft light bounced from the ceiling. I was able to get 1/50 @ 1.8 ISO800 with my 50mm 1.8. I like the softness. No post-processing on this one. Even the monochrome was done in-camera.

Please critique if you have time.


Trying this sort of street light look. The expression here is great. I said give me your best cool look. This is what I got. We were in a hurry to get a picture and get back inside before the mosquitoes carried me and my children away. I'll be so thankful when it starts to cool down.

If we would have had more time I would have like to bring up the ambient to fill in the shadows a bit. It was evening and there was still quite a bit of light available. Oh well this is what we got.

This is 1 285HV with a snoot @ 1/4 power. That's it.


Poor buddy. I have been accused of making him cry just for the opportunity to take a photo. I will admit that it makes for a good photo. However, I had nothing to do with him falling backward off the picnic bench on the playground and hitting his back. I tenderly said, "It'll be OK buddy. . .now tilt your head a little". :) It only hurt for a minute.

I took them outside to play and brought the flash and umbrella out just in case. I took some other photos of them on the swings but these stood out. Just have my 1 285HV into the same old silver umbrella @ 1/4 power. I have found that 1/4 power gives me f5.6 at ISO100 for best clarity.

Portrait Challenge

Portrait Challenge Day 2, originally uploaded by paggre.

So this is part of a monthly challenge from http://www.photochallenge.org. I really like doing these exercises because it forces me to shoot but I usually am not able to keep up for the whole month. Maybe this month will be better.

I'm very happy with this one. I used 1 285HV into silver umbrella 1/4 power camera right. 1 Sunpak 411 for background (green comforter over drape rod). 1 silver autoshade hanging from mic stand as reflector camera left. I like his expression and his eyes are very sharp. I did a little work in post cloning out some spaghetti from his lip and also used the unsharp mask for a little sharpening.

It is amazing what you have to go through to get the kiddos to stand in one spot for this kind of thing. They wanted me to take pictures of their cars and toys so I took a bunch of them holding their favorite toys (Snowspeeder, Bob The Builder, etc.) just to get the opportunity to take a real picture.

Please critique if you have time.


James James

James James, originally uploaded by paggre.

Another shoot for my wife's blog. Notice the differences between these James. So my two boys were having a knock-down drag-out fight over these things. I, in my most calm and rational voice, said "Have you lost your minds?!!! These things are exactly the same! Now go have a timeout in separate bedrooms!" So we do not let them come out until they have stopped crying so it sounds quiet and I let them come out. Hez starts out, his eyes red from crying, "No Daddy, that is not Eli's because mine has eyebrows!!!" I picked up the little engines to examine them. "Dog gone if you ain't right!" I said. Amazing how they study these toys and notice all the slight variations. So we considered that blog-worthy and I got to photograph the two engines.

Strobist: 1 285HV into silver umbrella choked up and crumpled a little @ 1/4 power camera right, 1 sunpak 411 @ 1/16 power gelled red for the background. Also had the everpresent FEDEX box for a reflector camera left. I put a piece of plexi over a black table top. Almost a granite thing going on. Using the gimp, I sharpened it a little and with the clone tool got rid of a little bleed through from the umbrella on the background.

Please critique if you have time.


Nikon D90

For you Nikonites out there. Is it time to upgrade? Only you can answer that but this is worth a look.


Cookies?, originally uploaded by paggre.

This is the beauty of my sweet wife enjoying blogging. She gives me photography work to do. She is my best customer. So here I have tried a trick that I saw somewhere recently. A piece of white poster board with a piece of clear plexiglass over the top. Gives a nice reflection. Also used gels on the background flash to get 2 different colors. The background is actually hunter green. So no gel gave me that and a red gel gives this. Could have made it any color. Used a makeshift reflector. A fedex box that was laying around. Fun stuff.

Strobist: 285HV into silver umbrella at 1/4 power camera left, white fedex box propped up against a mason jar camera right, Sunpak 411 gelled red at 1/8 power for background.


Sunrise Guard Tower

Sunrise Guard Tower, originally uploaded by paggre.

This is my second trip to this guard tower trying to get something that I like. I like this. The first trip I did not bring my lighting rig. So everything was just silhouetted against the sky. Not bad but not what I wanted. I wanted detail in the chair and sand. So any of you expert landscapers help me out. I figure I need a graduated filter to accomplish that.

So I also tried an HDR'ish kind of approach. I took 3 exposures and combined them. Tried 2 approaches to this as well. One was a script for the gimp. The other was tufuse for windows. Tufuse worked the best but still not the look I was after.

So for this I had one bare flash and took a few shots to aim the flash the way I wanted it. Then I just kept the ambient exposure down 1 stop and brought up the flash power until it looked good to me.


Quick Check Under The Hood

Quick Check Under The Hood, originally uploaded by paggre.

Not sure what he was looking for. I think he was trying to see if he could adjust the seat height. Later he had me adjust the height on HIS bike. He still like to get on this tricycle even though he swamps it.

Late afternoon sun here. Added some sharpening with un-sharp mask in the Gimp.


What You Talkin' About?

What You Talkin' About?, originally uploaded by paggre.

I get this look a lot these days. Experimenting with the rim light here. I am looking forward to a day when these guys will sit for me so that I can take their picture. These days it is a challenge to try to get a photo at all. Always pinging off the walls. Not a great subject for experimentation.


Sunrise Again

Sunrise Again, originally uploaded by paggre.

OK. Another shot of the same sunrise. Incorporated the idea suggested that I have more of the bridge and some of the palms in the foreground. The colors are amazing. Thank you Lord. Still, I want to find some more interesting things to put in the foreground. I do not really like the palms or the bridge for that matter but that is where I was so I used it. I should have used said bridge to make my way to the beach.

Landscapes definitely take time. You have to find a good location. Have an interesting sky. Wait for just the right light. I'm not there yet.


Oh Maggie.

Oh Maggie., originally uploaded by paggre.

Here's are two shots. Both with the same lighting setup; a 285HV into silver umbrella @ 1/16th power, bare SB600 camera left @ 1/16th power for hairlight, Sunpak 411 @ 1/32 power for background. The Sunpak is using an optical slave and it could only "see" the SB600. So the SB600 was not firing every time and when that happens, the Sunpak doesn't fire either. I didn't investigate it very much. I was thinking that the SB600 wouldn't fire in standby mode. So after I missed this shot (well I didn't really miss it, I just turned it into a single light portrait) I started firing the flashes once before I took a shot. You can see the setup working in the first shot with hairlight and background light.


Play Transformers With Me.

Play Transformers With Me., originally uploaded by paggre.

That is what he says to me. "After this picture, will you play transformers with me?" What a good sport.

This lighting stuff is really fun. Still borrowing two more strobes so I am trying to use them before I have to give them back. Three light setup here: a 285HV into silver umbrella @ 1/4th power, bare sb600 at 1/32 power plus 1/3 stop for the rimlight, bare Sunpak 411 at 1/4th power for background.