Saturday, September 29, 2012

Itty bitty spider

Today has been a low key day, which I don't mind in the least as I have not felt that energetic or motivated. So I chose to stay close to home and work on some photo editing and experiment with develop settings in Lightroom.  Inspiration did come to me to take some photos of the spider that has been living out on my front porch and seems to have set up residence there.

I started out with my speedlight mounted on a lightstand, set at approx. 45 degrees behind him so as to give some controlled backlighting - and to hopefully help combat the wind that was buffeting him around. I set the speedlight manually to its 24mm zoom setting, the head tilt to 45 degrees and placed a diffuser dome over it to further soften and spread the light. This worked pretty good for about 6 photos, then I had to grab my flash and stand due to a sudden downpour of rain.

As the rain was now turning more persistent and heavy I switched to on-camera but keeping the flash settings the same. Now I had a water-logged spider and web to shoot, so I made the most of the opportunity, shooting off several photos. 

Here's a photo taken with the flash backlighting the spider:

And here are two photos with the on-camera flash of a rather damp spider:

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Weekly update and portrait photos

This past week saw me with a new assignment to take a series of corporate portraits for use on the company's website for staff bios. This required the use of a fairly basic lighting setup to minimize shadows and keep the lighting even so that even at thumbnail size, the portrait is clearly viewable.

To achieve the lighting setup I used the following items:
  1. pair of Manfrotto light stands
  2. Nikon SB600 Speedlight
  3. Nikon FL-G2-AWB flash gel (shooting under fluorescent light)
  4. Nikon SC-26 TTL cable
  5. Nikon D100 (w/Nikkor 60mm Micro)
  6. Shoot through umbrella
  7. 32in reflector (using the white cover)
  8. large portable projector screen as the background
I also was trying out a new tethered setup linking my D100 to my MacBook Pro using Sofortbild (available here - I can report that the tethered shooting worked very well and I will certainly be making further use of the software.

Here is a diagram of the lighting setup I used for the shoot:
As you can see, I had my subjects stand facing into the shoot-through umbrella and than turn their head back to face me, so they were not (where possible) standing square on to the camera. Where possible I like to avoid shooting straight on at a subject as it just looks wrong to me. Yes, it can make the subject look "strong"but it also looks too rigid; it was also the wrong look for the shoot. The idea was to have everyone look friendly and approachable, so a more relaxed and casual look was what I was after.

One drawback I had to deal with was the bank of fluorescent lights directly over the head of my subjects - if you look at the eyes in my examples, you will see an additional catchlight from this. As it was, I made some use of the additional light to keep the shutter speed up while running the flash as rear-curtain fill flash to balance the flash and ambient light levels.

I also had some model release forms with me and had a handfull of the models sign them to enable me to make use of the photos here on my blog and my website. Those that I didn't ask
to sign a form will only have their photos used on the company website and not on either of my sites.

Now it's time to post a few example photos from the shoot -

Whitney Adams

Sharon Reese

Richard Chance

Kristina Adams

Larry Winegar

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Ribbon cutting at OU-Tulsa

There was the official ribbon cutting event this past Friday for the new IT Data Center at the University of Oklahoma's Tulsa campus. I was there in my dual roles of an OU employee and as a photographer recording the event.

The main dignitaries for the ribbon cutting were: Dr Gerard Clancy, OU-Tulsa President; Loretta Early, OU Vice President and CIO; Dana Saliba, OU-Tulsa IT Director.

Gerard Clancy at the microphone, with Dana Saliba and Loretta Early seated

Dana Saliba at the microphone

Loretta Early at the microphone

Gerard Clancy, Loretta Early, Dana Saliba and the OU-Tulsa IT leadership team about to cut the ribbon

And the ribbon is cut - the data center is officially open for business

 Commemorative photograph of the ribbon cutting

Thursday, September 13, 2012

A case of DIY

After numerous failures and a large amount of money spent on repairing the sticky aperture on my Nikon 20mm f/2.8D lens I was on the verge of calling it quits and either letting it gather dust in a cupboard or try to offload it for some small return. In the last couple of years I have probably spent more than the value of the lens on having it serviced/repaired; the last service lasted less then 1 week before it failed again. However, I do like the lens so decided to do a little searching online to see if I could find anything of aid - and found a very detailed guide to repairing the lens myself at

So last night found me sitting down at a table, with the guide on my laptop screen, disassembling the lens. Pretty quickly I spotted that the diaphragm spring was not attached to its arm (again) so I knew what was needed to be fixed. I also knew by reading the guide that I would have to pretty much strip the lens down completely to get to the spring. In the process I also discovered that there was something (oil or grease) on the aperture blades so while I had the lens apart I took a couple of cotton swabs (q-tips) and carefully cleaned the blades; making sure that everything functioned correctly and smoothly.

Now, easy part over, comes the re-assembly and insuring the lens works as it should.  It took me a couple of attempts to correctly line things up so the lens focus movement moved correctly but everything went back together and it seemed to test out okay. I attached t to my camera and tested the aperture and focussing - both of which seems to be working correctly.

I'l be interested to see how long it will keep working before either the spring comes off or the blades gum up but at least now I know I can save myself some money and just fix it myself.


Sunday 16 September - update
Guess I didn't clean the blades that well as they are sticking again. At least the spring is still attached! I'll just have to do a more thorough job of cleaning the blades and see just how long the lens will keep working.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Request to camera manufacturers

Not that any are likely to be reading this but I would like to make a request to camera manufacturers concerning mode selectors on cameras. Would you please make them lockable so that they can't be accidentally moved and you are suddenly shooting in a different mode than you intended?

Admittedly this may just be an issue with my particular camera, as it is an old model - Nikon D100. The main function wheel that selects Exposure Mode, ISO, WB, Image Quality and AF Area has no locking function and as I found out yesterday, "after" I had been shooting some urban scenes, can be bumped off it's setting fairly easily. I normally shoot in Aperture Priority and don't always check the LCD after each shot. So imagine my surprise when checking the photos on my laptop and finding a little over half the photos badly over exposed due to the camera being on Manual...oops! I know I should have picked up on this at the time, what with the viewfinder readout and all but for whatever reason I didn't notice that anything was wrong/different. Guess I was just having one of those days where I was too interested in the subject to notice anything else.

Oh well, it's not like I can't go back and shoot the same photos another time. If nothing else I can view my visit as a recon one prior to my "real" visit.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Route 66 Village

I've made two trips now to the Route 66 Village in Tulsa, OK. My first visit was during the early afternoon, so fairly bright and sunny conditions. Not the best for photos as there is not much directional light but pretty good for photographing details.

My second visit was closer to sunset on a day that had experienced some passing rain and thunder storms. However, as I found out, the actual sunset was not very spectacular so I was not able to get any dramatic light in the sky. That's not to say the clouds didn't give an atmospheric look to the photos I took. Also, with the fast dropping light levels, I broke out my SB-600 to provide some fill light - I had my D100 set to rear curtain to keep the ambient light levels balanced with the fill.

(click images to open gallery in new window)

Daytime visit:

Evening/sunset visit:

Photo walk around parts of Tulsa

I have been trying to get back into the habit of doing photo walks to find interesting subjects in my locale. As I spend a lot of time in and around Tulsa (now), here is a small selection of Tulsa photos.

There are still plenty of things for me to explore and photograph, so this is just scratching the surface.

Most are using natural light, although there are a few where I did use a little fill-flash.

(click image to open gallery in a new window)

Galleries of OU-Tulsa Construction

These are photos I took of a construction project at the University of Oklahoma's Tulsa Campus where a new data center was being built for the IT department.

I had not worked on a construction project like this before so this was definitely a "seat of the pants" learning process for me. Looking back at the photos I can see things I could have done different (or better) but this is still a valid record of the construction process.

(click image to open the gallery in a new tab or window, depending on browser)

General construction:

North View Timeline:

South View Timeline:

Online presence and making changes

After some re-examining my online presence I have decided that I have been trying to do too much and spreading myself a little too far. What with this blog, a website, Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn; it's getting that I'm spending more time trying to keep these up to date than I am taking photographs.

As I seem to spend more time here on my blog sharing updates and posting photos, I'm thinking I should build on this and start sharing my photo galleries here. That way I can share background info on the subjects, techniques and my thoughts/feelings much better than I can on my website. To this end I may rein back a little on my website while building up this blog, maybe even dropping my website completely if this works out for the best.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Unknown photo subject

I was out and about with my camera today, despite the 103F heat. To try and combat the heat and bright overhead sun I headed to Woodward Park so I could use the trees for shade and props. It also meant I could break out my Speedlight for some fill-flash, well, as long as I could keep my shutter speeds down low enough for my low sync speed.

While there I found, or rather my wife Lisa spotted this little guy (or girl) sheltering on the trunk of a tree. 

I happened to have my macro lens on my camera so I focused in pretty close, while giving myself some distance so I didn't cast a shadow from the end of my lens and took several photos with a pop of fill-flash to illuminate the wings. 

One thing I haven't been able to do so far is identify what species this insect is. I tried several internet searches but have not found anything as yet.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Re-working my photo library

Hopefully I have moved my photo library for the last time (other than regular backups). For the third time in so many months I have had to remove it from a laptop and re-install it on another. I guess that was the price to pay for using a laptop(s) I was borrowing and not one I owned. That has all changed now as I now have my own and can rebuild my library and get all my photos better organized. And yes, I went with a Mac; a used (pre-unibody) 15in MacBook Pro that I upgraded the ram and harddrive to 4GB and 750GB respectively.

Now comes the task of installing all the software, resetting all the settings and presets, as well as just getting used to where everything is. Much like working with my camera, everything needs to be comfortable and familiar for best productivity.

I haven't spent much time behind my camera this last week. I have however been reading a new book on lighting and editing/correcting for "correct" skin tones. Been very interesting and informative so far.