Saturday, December 27, 2014

More portrait work (self portraits)

Regular readers will remember my last post mentioned that I was going to be testing out zoom settings on my SB-900 flash to better illuminate my beauty dish. I can report back that my tests were very successful and that setting it to a zoom setting of 200mm does the trick and gives great light - and fills the dish nicely. And as I do not currently have a model to use for these shots, I have been using myself as both the photographer and the model.

Being a bit of an introvert is not the best thing for a portrait photographer as people are my subject matter and it certainly makes it "interesting" in approaching potential models; and also something I need to really deal with/overcome in the year(s) to come. I also plan on creating a studio space for myself in the coming year so I have a "home base" for shoots. Not every (potential) client has a location to use or wants to shoot outdoors, so a studio space would be very preferable.

I'm still working on defining my personal style; but I'm not sweating it as I know this will come with time. Weather it will be a lighting style, a colour style, high key, low key...maybe I never will have a distinctive style that identifies my work. Not all photographers have an instantly recognizable style.

The latest self portrait shoot eventually ended up with me converting to Black & White, by trying out some of the presets I have in Lightroom. I ended up using one from a collection from Lindsay Adler I purchased as part of a bigger package deal a few months ago. I might have to try it out on some more portraits as I like the look it produces.


Still find self portraits a bit of a challenge to get the focus and framing good. Although I did bend the rules a little on this one as I used my 12-24mm zoom lens @24mm, to give an effective full-frame equivalent of 36mm. This is about as wide as is advised for a portrait at this close a range as distortion can occur; although keeping away from the edges of the frame will reduce this problem.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Quick update

I wanted to get in a quick, little update before the end of the day and the start of another week. Not that I've had much time with my camera, I have at least been keeping busy with photography related things - namely research and practicing.

The research part has been in the form of some new books (Joe McNally and Erik Valind) and a new video (Lindsey Adler); while the practice part has been in fine tuning the use of my new beauty dish.

The big thing I wanted to test out was the best zoom setting for my SB-900 flash to properly illuminate the dish. I had been leaving my zoom setting at the 24mm I was using for my softbox (to fill the box). Although I found an interesting bit of info on how Joe McNally uses SB-900's and SB-910's with the same softbox; he uses the diffuser dome which sets the zoom to 14mm. May have to try that out the next time I break out the softbox.

Okay, back to the beauty dish. I had noticed when I tried some self-portraits that the reflection in the catchlights seemed a little "off" and also that I wasn't seeing the crispness I was expecting in the light quality. I think having the head zoomed out to 24mm was not directing the light into the reflector plate enough and that instead it was spreading beyond the plate, softening the light. So today I decided to test my theory and took some test shots with the flash head zoomed to 200mm. Now, there's the crispness I was looking for! The light quality is so much improved now and much more how I was expecting it to be.

All I need to do now is find a willing/suitable model and take some real-world portraits or head shots.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Painting with light (and shadow)

I've often heard photography referred to as painting with light but in reality, it's the shadows that really make or break the image, especially in portraits. Effective use of light and shadows can really "sculpt" the models features and make them stand out. Of course, taken too far and you can overdo it - with either the light or the shadows; the trick is in finding the balance between the two.

What got me thinking of this again was my experimenting on a design idea for a portrait head-piece for an Autumn/Winter theme. That and a chance to try out my new beauty-dish. As I didn't have a "live" model available, I made use of Tyra; my styrofoam stand in.


I think the head-piece needs a little more work but the general idea is one I'm going to continue working on as it has a lot of potential.

For the technically minded here are the details on the photo:
Nikon D2x, 35mm f/1.8 @ 1/250sec and f/2.8, SB-900 in a Phottix beauty-dish @1/32 power

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Minor update

As there was no usual mid-week post last week, I wanted to do a quick update to let everyone know that I'm still here.

My recent photo "assignment" was to take photos at a halloween costume competition, but as I did not have any model release forms signed I can't really share any of them here. They were used for university instead for competition judging and for posting the winning participants. I'm not too concerned by all this as if nothing else, it was a good exercise in shooting on the fly (so to speak) as most of my plans had to change on the day and no two photos were the same. Also, I had a very short space of time to setup and shoot each photo, weather it was a single person or a group of 12+.

On a different note, I found a great product that I am eagerly awaiting its arrival; the Phottix Luna folding beauty dish. Finally I will be able to use a beauty dish on my SB-900 hotshoe flash. This, alongside my pair of shoot-through umbrellas and Lastolite Ezybox, will give me all three main lighting tools for portrait work and will allow me to vary from wide, soft diffused light to more directional and contrasty light.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Eye of the beholder

I'm pretty certain that I am not alone, as a person and as a photographer, in my opinion that everything has its own natural beauty. Take spiders for example; while reviled by many, I find their unique forms and features to be fascinating and beautiful.

I found this particular specimen making its web at the side of my house, while I was walking one of my dogs. As the web was only a few feet off the ground, I had to stop Jax from having a snack while I checked out the spider.

Next it was a case of grab my camera, macro lens, flash and Flashbender modifier. This time I switched to TTL balanced flash and Aperture Priority on the camera so I could concentrate more on framing and focusing. Of course, breaking out a light stand and getting the flash off camera would have also been an option but I went to for on camera flash bouncing light off the Flashbender to create indirect illumination.


I did a quick search on Google but so far I have not identified the particular species of spider. Still, I find it to be pretty striking and after taking about 30 images, I left it alone to go back to creating it's web.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

In a flash...

Excuse the pun but it has been a pretty illuminating week for me where flash photography is concerned; and I guess I should step backwards a little and explain what I mean.

It all started when I received an email about the big 5 Day Deal of photography gear (videos, textures, plugins, software, training, etc) - in all $2000+ for a one time price of $89. If you participated, then you know just how awesome a deal it was, but if you missed it, my commiserations as it's now gone away.

Anyway, I started looking through the videos and was going to start looking at the ones from Lindsay Adler when I saw a series from Zack Arias, entitled One Light. All I can say is wow! Fantastic video series on flash photography and not only did he explain it all in a manner that even I could understand, he also demonstrated it all in a clear and easy to follow manner. It certainly highlighted everything I've done "wrong" in my previous efforts at flash photography. Two of the biggest things I now know after watching the videos is:

  1. Use manual mode for both the camera and flash
  2. I don't need to spend $hundred's on strobes and accessories - I have pretty much everything I need now (other than a few minor items)
My next big opportunity to flex my new found techniques will be at halloween as I will be running a "photo booth" for a costume party. I'll be using a pretty minimal setup of one SB-900, one SU-800, an Ezybox softbox on a 15ft stand and a white backdrop. Don't need any more than that as I can get good directional light from the Ezybox with minimal overspill as I won't want to light up the background and surrounding area too much - so no umbrella for this.

And now the wall of text is over, I bet you're wanting to see some photos. Well, I didn't have a "model" handy, so had to resort to using myself as the subject matter. Of course, I've never been that great at taking selfies but I certainly like the much improved lighting I got from this very basic setup of the Ezybox sitting a couple of feet above the camera position, in line with the lens.

Ian - Portrait2
Ian - Portrait

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Throwback Thursday

Here is another delve into my photo archives and a previously unreleased photograph. This one was taken in October 2008 at the Tall Grass Prairie Preserve, near Pawhuska, Oklahoma - it was my first visit to the preserve and my first encounter with a bison.

The photo was taken in the late afternoon sun, close to 4:30pm and is of a single bison as it forages in the prairie grasses. If you're ever in the area, I highly recommend paying the preserve a visit and stepping back in time to when most of Oklahoma was open prairie lands and the bison roamed free.


Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Small things

Like a lot of things, photography is often made (or broken) by the small things - not least of which is the need to watch the background for unwanted things or "photo bombs" by people/animals/objects. Also, by focussing on the little things we can find some really interesting subjects; colour, texture, shape, the play of light and shadow, etc.

I spotted this little flower in my back yard, in our small raised bed and I felt inspired to break out my camera and try to capture it. The late afternoon sun was placing the raised bed into shadow so I also broke out my SB-900 and Rogue Flashbender to provide some more flattering, indirect lighting. I then took several shots with the flash set to TTL/BL and was not very happy with the results as the flower was getting washed out. To compensate for this I switched over to manual on both my D2X and SB-900, finding a happy medium with the flash set to 1/4 power and the camera set to 1/100 sec and f/14 on my 60mm macro lens.

small pink flower

I like how the strands of spider web add a little extra interest to the shot - wondering where the spider may be; when did they leave; when will they return.

And I still like the square format to give a more balanced image (to me), some may not be too enamored with it but I like it on this particular shot.

Until the next entry, keep exploring and experiencing...

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Musings and observations

I haven't spent much time behind my camera so far this week, but have every intention to remedy this very soon.

Not that I haven't been doing photography related things in the meantime. Been watching some instructional videos from Lindsay Adler on lighting and posing techniques, as well as diving into another of her great books - Fashion Flair for Portrait and Wedding Photography. And another great source for lighting techniques is any of Joe McNally's books - and great reads too!

Oddly enough, I observed (by chance) a couple of photographers taking portraits at a local park over this past weekend; while I was there exercising my dog and letting him get excited with all the squirrels. Anyway, back to the "photographers" and my impressions of watching their work. My number one thought was how they need to read "Shooting in Sh*tty Light" by Lindsay Adler because I'm seriously thinking that their photos are not going to be very great.

One photog was working with a young couple and all she had for light modifiers was an on camera flash (no diffuser dome or other modifier in use, other than the built-in bounce card was extended) that was set to 90° straight at the subjects - the most unflattering option. They would have done a lot better to have had an assistant with a 5in1 reflector/diffuser to work with the wonderful afternoon sun (for natural light) or to help in getting the flash off-camera to provide a more pleasing fill light. What made this one worse for me was a little while later I overheard the photog and subjects talking about the shoot and the photog commented about looking forward to receiving their $400 fee! Wow classy; talking loudly about that kind of thing in a public place.

Then a little while later I saw what must have been a wedding party of some sort - big stretch limo, about a dozen people streaming out and being herded into a group for some photos. The photog in this scenario had nothing more than a single body and (what looked like) a short zoom lens. He proceeded to line everyone up, facing into the afternoon sun which meant they would all be squinting heavily and scrunching up their faces. Most unflattering!

Now it's not like I'm (currently) any top portrait photographer but I'm educating myself on good practices. I'm also very well aware of mistakes I've made in the past with a lot of my portrait work...not least of which is producing boring, stiff portraits. Add into that poor lighting choices (don't light a male and female subject the same - one will not like the look) and general errors.

I am currently planning my "first" portrait session since all my video classes and reading and will incorporate as much of what I've learnt as I can into the photos. I'm even following Lindsay's prep work suggestions to identify location and photo style. And of course, I will post updates and photos here after they are finished.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Wayback Wednesday

Today I'm going to do something a little different and dig into my photo archives to highlight never before published photos.

The year is 2005 and I have recently started working with a digital SLR camera. The camera in question is a Nikon D100 (and yes, I do still have it) and I am busily diving into the whole world of digital photography.

Like a lot of people, I have mixed feelings about zoos and aquariums but I have to say that they do offer the chance to photograph animals that you may never otherwise have an opportunity to. On this occasion I was at the Oklahoma Aquarium and saw a pretty good sized bass swimming around and I took several photos of him/her.

For the technically minded, the lens used was a 60mm f/2.8D Micro with an exposure of 1/20sec @ f/4.

I hope you like this small glimpse back in time and a chance to see a photo that has not been widely shared before. Who knows, I may make this a regular thing!

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Busy, busy time

It's been a while since I last sat down with my laptop and typed up a blog entry and a lot has transpired in that time - some good, some not so good.

I think I'll just dive in and get the not so good out of the way. For some time now my Macbook Pro has been progressively having performance issues and Lightroom had been a major pain in that it would often fail to open and read all my cataloged images. Thinking that the problem was with Lightroom I contacted their tech support for assistance. Hmm, was that a fun time - not that they were not helpful or anything, it was how bad my Mac and Lightroom were behaving. I ended up having two separate support chat calls and both ended the same way with my Mac being so locked up and unresponsive that I had to power it off.

Long story short, it eventually turned out to not be a problem with Lightroom. Instead it was the disk in my Mac that was going bad. Fortunately I had the foresight to insure I had an up to date backup of all my photos onto an external disk, which in the circumstances was more fortunate than I first thought as the entire image folder for 2014 on the internal disk got wiped out! Backups are good!!

Ah, the joys of technology - a necessary thing for any digital photographer as our work depends on it in so many ways. And yes, my Macbook Pro is running (I rebuilt it on a spare disk).

And speaking of photography, I have been making pictures in all this and still experimenting with lighting. A couple of small portable flashes can be very versatile and when needed, can illuminate an entire room.

My first photo sample is natural light on a rainy day. Not sure what it is but I like to look for small details on wet days and this view of my garden is very whimsical -

I know some may not like how it's primarily out of focus over most of the image but it certainly draws you in and that was my intention.

Of course, what would this post be without at least one puppy photo? Well, this one would be 1 short as I'm going to post two - one of Amber and one of Jax. Both of these were taken with a pair of Speedlights on stands and set to 1/2 power, shooting straight up to bounce off the ceiling. Effectively they lit the room and removed any mixed lighting from the ambient and CFL lighting in the room. Also, I felt they looked better cropped 1:1 as I kind of like the square format look - 

My last photo updates are my most recent work and sees me dabbling again in event photography, recording events on campus; as part of my day job at the university. In this case the event was to mark the groundbreaking on a new 4-year medical school initiative between OU-Tulsa and TU. The event included the attendance of the president of OU, David Boren -

And what is a groundbreaking without at least one picture of dirt being dug - 

I'm hoping my technical woes are behind me and that I am now free to get back to making photos as I've missed being creative.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Continued learning

Once again I have been doing a lot behind the scenes while my "public face" has appeared completely dormant. When my schedule has allowed, I am still watching instructional courses on CreativeLive from such wonderful photogs like Lindsay Adler and Sue Bryce, as lighting is so important to a good photo and they are so good at what they do.

I've also been experimenting with some of what I've been learning. I recently used two small Speedlights to illuminate a room and overpower both the ambient and artificial lighting solving the color balance issues inherent in mixed lighting situations.

I've also been doing a lot of observing of the interplay of light and shadow on people and places. Yeah, I people watch! But we are all different and I find it so informative to observe and take mental notes.

Monday, July 21, 2014

One step forward...

Not a whole lot going on lately with photo projects, instead I have been spending some time over at the Creative Live website watching some of their training videos on portrait posing and lighting as this is something I want to learn more about. I can highly recommend the site as a wonderful resource, not just for photography - CreativeLive

The other week I had the opportunity to put some of the lighting techniques and tips to good use when I was tasked with taking some corporate headshots for web use. But as the title of this blog post hints, not everything went quite as well as planned.

I was certainly well prepared with some new additions to my mobile studio setup: a 5ft x 7ft collapsible white background and an Expodisc for custom WB setting. Add this to a softbox, 5in1 reflector, 2 Speedlights and assorted stands and I was good to go. Add to that my D2X was tethered to my Macbook Pro running Sofortbild and I could give almost instant feedback on the photos.

As this was going to be backlit to give a clean white background (easier to drop photos onto website) I setup my camera to be in manual so I could overpower the ambient light and set it to 1/200sec and f/4. I used the Expodisc to set the WB off my softbox output and used these settings as my base exposure for the shots, adjusting as needed.

I then setup the 2 lights, with the softbox being camera left, adjusting height and angle to suit the subject; the second light below should height behind the background to backlight. Both were set to remote and were triggered wirelessly.

And off I set taking the headshots. Along the way I started to notice my exposure settings were needing to be adjusted as they were coming out too dark. Even setting the rear flash to a +1 compensation was not lifting the exposure. Knowing that I could "fix it in Photoshop" I pushed on and finished the session, but still wondering what was up.

That evening while I was looking at the results and trying to determine what went wrong I "clicked" as to where I went wrong. I had failed to set the Speedlights to manual! They were quite happily running in TTL mode and adjusted themselves for the ambient light levels, while my camera was set to manual to have the ambient light overpowered - which clearly was not going to happen. This is what led to my issue of underexposure on almost every shot.

Rest assured, I learnt this the hard way - if you have the camera in manual, INSURE you also have the lights in manual! TTL mode is great if you want to work with ambient light, but it doesn't work too well if you want to replace the ambient light with the flash output.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Always stay flexible

It is always a good idea to stay as flexible as possible in everything that you do. This is especially true of the creative arts, as trends change and so too do your own taste and preference to what you are creating.

This was brought home to me recently as an interesting phenomena concerning my photography "specialization". As I really like landscape style work (natural and urban) I thought it best to work towards this as my specialization - so many say to be successful you must specialize in a certain type of photography - but after a short while an odd thing occurred; I stopped taking photos. And when I did grab my camera to take any photos, it was not anything landscape themed. Instead it was to record our newest furry addition to our household - a young male rat terrier dog called Jax.

Jax the rat terrier

Other than puppy pics, the only other photos I have taken lately have been some headshots and portraits to practice techniques I've been learning from watching video classes on CreativeLive. And I can highly recommend the courses on their site.


Above is one of my (new) lighting practice sessions consisting of a softbox to Lisa's right, just above eye level; a reflector to her left at eye level and approx. 45° to fill the shadows; a second speedlight behind her to illuminate the background. 

With all these things going on, I made the decision to drop my specialization attempts for now and "reclassify" as a generalist photographer and just shoot what appeals to me whenever I pick up my camera. Who knows, I might get really good at people photography and head that way, or I may end up shooting something completely different. At this time I couldn't really say, so until that day comes I'm just going to stay flexible.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Okmulgee Lake and Dripping Springs

Earlier this month I re-visited Okmulgee Lake and Dripping Springs Lake, on a nice sunny day, to explore and photograph. For anyone interested in paying it a visit, you can find it at GPS coordinates 35° 36' 01"N 96° 03' 35"W, approximately 5 miles West of Okmulgee on Hwy 56. Dripping Springs is signposted from Okmulgee Lake and is a little further to the South West.

I've visited the area a few times now but have still not ventured much further than the easily accessible parts - will need to correct that some time and really explore the hiking trails for any further vantage points and items of interest.

I was also taking this as an opportunity to test out a new polarizer filter, which I found was just a little too "deep" for my 12-24mm f/4 lens and it vignettes slightly at the 12mm end. Despite this minor inconvenience I really like the "Moose Filter" combo of polarizer and warm-up filter - just have to remember to not zoom out to 12mm!

lapping waves at Okmulgee Lake, Oklahoma

I don't know what it is really but I'm one of those that find the sound of waves lapping on the shore to be very relaxing and calming. Not that the shore here is really up for much comfort as its pretty rocky.

rocky shore and tree at Okmulgee Lake, Oklahoma

A little further to the South I found what looks to be the remains of a house. Pretty much all that remains is the foundation slab and a rock fireplace w/chimney. There is some wonderful weathering on it all and of course, its sprouted graffiti but it doesn't detract too much (I feel).

rock and stone chimney with grafifitti at Okmulgee Lake, Oklahoma

I like to make use of shallow depth of field whenever I can as I like how it pulls the subject out of the photograph. Not that I have anything against making full use of small apertures to gain maximum depth of field, just different styles for different subjects. The following selection of photographs are of the tall grasses blowing in the wind taken at different apertures and lens to cover varying depth of field effects.

windblown grass at Okmulgee Lake, Oklahoma

windblown grass at Okmulgee Lake, Oklahoma

windblown grass at Okmulgee Lake, Oklahoma

windblown grass at Okmulgee Lake, Oklahoma

windblown grass at Okmulgee Lake, Oklahoma

windblown grass at Okmulgee Lake, Oklahoma

windblown grass at Okmulgee Lake, Oklahoma

Now it was time to head on to Dripping Springs Lake. The main visitor here are out fishing for bass but it is still a great place to visit and explore, even if your interests are not in fishing.

Dripping Springs Lake, Oklahoma

A little further on to the south of this spot is a fishing dock that offers the chance to get out onto/over the water somewhat.

fishing dock at Dripping Springs Lake, Oklahoma

While it was a good subject to photograph, it was as I found out, a little too mobile to setup my tripod on to take long exposure photos. As the wind was picking up again while I was here, the dock (and end platform) was bobbing up and down pretty rhythmically on the waves.

sunken tree remains at Dripping Springs Lake, Oklahoma

I need to pay another visit to the fishing dock to try and capture a sunset over the water as the trees should give great shadows and silhouettes as the light reflects off the water. Just have to time it when there's a great sunset in the making.

New post(s) and photos coming soon

While there may be a pretty sizable gap since my last post, I haven't neglected my photography. Far from it, actually. I have ventured back to re-visit the Okmulgee Lake/Dripping Springs area (viewers of my G+ posts will have seen some photos there) and I have also been experimenting with some long exposure macro photography (again, posted on G+).

I am in the process of creating blog posts to give additional details on location, subjects and techniques so please stay tuned as they will be posted soon.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Return to the park

As the afternoon was passing yesterday I noticed that the sky was looking photogenic, and on a whim I headed to Mohawk Park in the north of Tulsa, OK. I've visited here before and have a couple of pictures already posted on here taken there.

I seem to end up in the same general area as before but this time I spotted a small turtle on the river bank, so naturally I had to include him (her) in the shot:
small turtle at Mohawk Park, Tulsa, OK

Just a little further along the bank I found an interesting log sitting in the water, with some nice highlights - or as I found out in Lightroom, some very blown out specular highlights. I managed to tame them a bit so they don't distract too much from the image:
reflections in water at Mohawk Park, Tulsa, OK

If you ever find yourself in Tulsa, Mohawk Park is certainly worth a visit, if for nothing else than just getting away from the city and relaxing in nature.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Interesting skies

The early evening sky yesterday was definitely interesting, so much so that I grabbed my camera to get some photos. I didn't do any fancy setup or bother with any HDR brackets, instead I just set my 12-24mm lens to manual - 12mm, f/11 and prefocused to 2ft to give me hyperfocal focus from 1ft to infinity - and started shooting at ISO 100. I did step this up to ISO 200 as the light levels fell off some. I also added a -0.3EV comp to offset the contrast.

After a little post processing (levels, sharpening, noise reduction and cropping) this is what I was seeing in the sky.
storm clouds at sunset, Oklhoma

This is facing roughly South East of Glenpool, Oklahoma which is towards where there had been some storms moving through Oklahoma. This is very possibly a part of those storms, not that the Glenpool area experienced any bad weather as you can see from the blue sky above the clouds.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Now for some photos

In my last post I mentioned that I would share some photos from my recent testing session at Okmulgee Lake and while the IR shots were not very successful, my "normal" HDR brackets were pretty successful. And today, this is what I'm going to share here, 3 tonemaps from my HDR brackets - all shot using a Tokina 12-24mm f/4 lens.

The first photo is a great example of what's good about HDR work, the ability to record a scene closer to how our eyes actually see it. This is especially true of an interior shot with the exterior also highly visible - and capturing both the highlights and shadows that you can see detail in both.

Shooting this as a "normal" single exposure severely limits your options to either capturing the shadows and losing the highlights; or capturing the highlights and having the shadows block up and have no detail. Personally I much prefer to have both!

The next photo is an example of how you can shoot into the sun (it was about a 45 degree angle to camera left) and maintain good detail and texture to both the foreground and background. It also showed that this angle didn't cause flare down the lens, even at its wide end.

The final photo in this post is an example of shooting directly into the sun and I also included it in the shot, complete with some lens flare. I don't feel it was too excessive on the flare and doesn't distract from the photo. You the viewer may not agree but we are all entitled to our own opinions here - art is very subjective but I hope you agree with me on this one.

I also like the "starburst" on the sun from shooting at f/11. While I could have closed down to f/22 to increase the effect, I would have also introduced diffusion across the entire image, which I didn't want.

All the images were processed in Lightroom before being merged and tonemapped in Photomatix Pro, then a few finishing touches back in Lightroom before exporting as JPG's.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Camera and lens testing

The past couple of weeks has seen me in testing mode for a few different topics. The main one being my recent purchase of a used Tokina 12-24mm f/4 lens, that I wanted to fully check for functionality before the return period expired. And I’m very happy to find that everything works and the lens is now a permanent part of my photo gear.

The other testing I have been doing is with the IR photography capabilities of my cameras and lenses. For some time now I have had an interest in the look of IR photos and wanted to take another attempt at taking some myself. To this end I purchased a filter to fit my new Tokina and attached it all to my D2X - and was not too happy with the result. Guess I should have done a little on-line research first as I would have found that numerous people have flagged both the D2X and Tokina 12-24 as not recommended for IR photography.

With the D2X, Nikon did a very thorough job of designing/building it to minimize the effects of IR light on the image sensor. This is wonderful for “normal” photos and especially skin tones but not so good for my testing. It’s not that it can’t take IR photos, just that they will require much longer exposure times to produce anything usable, which in turn increases the effective noise levels on the images.

Meanwhile my older D100 seems pretty well suited to taking IR photos. My test shots with the Tokina lens were relatively free of flare in the image center - unless I had the sun in the frame, or close to the lens axis that it was able to shine into the lens. However, I did notice one anomaly between the Tokina and my Nikon 60mm Micro - after they’ve been post-processed, the images from the Tokina are predominately blue, while the Nikon retains more red to the overall image (this is after doing a blue/red channel swap; I’ll cover this later.

One of the biggest problems for IR photography is getting the exposure “right” - right being a generic term as this is subject to the personal taste and artistic intention of the photographer. Yes, it is certainly possible to go to extremes of over/under exposure and produce a bad photo, but there is a significant range in which the exposure can reside and still look good. 

Back on the topic, one of the first things to do is pick (or set) a white balance. From my online research it seems that the common consensus is to take a custom WB reading off green grass lit by the sun; or use the WB picker tool in editing software and take a reading off the grass (or similar toned subject). This is all well and good but once I have the R72 filter in place, neither of my cameras will take a custom WB reading. So, I tried the WB picker tool - and found an interesting thing. Using Lightroom to do this the WB was consistently being set to 2000K and -36 tone. Now if you look at the WB tool in Lightroom’s develop mode, it only goes down to 2000K - this is as red as it can go and is actually within the range of “Near IR” on the Kelvin Color Scale, which using Wein’s law is calculated at approximately 3000K. This got me to thinking, why not just set my camera’s WB to their lowest and use that for the photos?

According to the camera manuals, the D100 can be set to a custom WB of 2,700K and the D2X can be set to 2,500K. Add in an exposure compensation of around +2 and this is a pretty good “set and forget” setting. If the images are still a little too far off once in Lightroom you can go ahead and move the WB setting to 2000K and -36 tone.

Beyond the actual physical conversion of the camera body so that it can shoot IR photos without an additional filter on the lens, this is as close as you can get to working in the “Near IR” spectrum - and far from working in the “IR” spectrum as it resides at approx. 300K which is far beyond the ability of a DSLR regardless of filters. Not that any of us can see anything remotely near these wavelengths anyway.

As I mentioned earlier I wanted to expand a little on my comment on channel swapping. You will need Photoshop, or some similar editing program that has channel adjustments to carry out this technique. 
  1. Open the image in Photoshop
  2. Apply a Channels adjustment layer
  3. Select the Red Channel and set Blue to +100, Red to 0
  4. Select the Blue Channel and set Blue to 0, Red to +100
  5. Flatten image
  6. Carry out further editing or hit Save
The idea behind this technique is that it will retain “blue skies” in false color IR images. Not something to worry about if you convert all IR images to B/W, as a lot of people do. The only thing that I’ve found that seems odd with this technique is that I can take the same camera and settings to take a shot, swap lens and take the shot again and the false coloring will vary greatly in the red-blue spectrum. My Tokina 12-24mm seems to produce images with a blue color cast over the entire image, while my Nikon 60mm Micro produces more of a magenta color cast but it doesn’t tint other colors in the same way as the Tokina seems to.

In general I’ve been a little disappointed in how the Tokina 12-24mm handles IR photography, which as it’s pretty much tagged as a “do not use for IR” lens across the internet is not surprising. In fact, my old (slow) Nikon 18-55mm lens produces more pleasing IR images with no apparent hotspots. So much so I’ve decided to return the new 77mm Hoya R72 filter and will instead get something more useful for landscape/architectural photos - a good 4 stop or higher ND filter or a circular-polarizer; I’m leaning toward the ND personally. I’ll still be experimenting with IR photography, just that I’ll be doing that on my “spare” body and lens combo - D100 and 18-55mm. I’ll keep the D2X and Tokina 12-24mm for my main camera and swap out for the D100 when it’s IR time.

Now I don’t really have much in the way of IR photos to share as examples as I was aiming at testing rather than aesthetics - in other words, they suck! As I get more experienced with shooting IR photos I will post examples here for everyone to view, just that at this time I’d rather keep them to myself.

I will share a few “normal” photos from the same testing sessions though (in my next blog post) as examples of what the Tokina is capable of.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Keeping things updated

Not a lot happening lately.  While I may not have taken many photographs recently, I have been busy planning out some new photo shoots.  Just keeping an eye on the weather forecasts to try and time it right to get the best conditions.

Also, my attention has been elsewhere dealing with non photo related things that have demanded my attention - can't get to locations without a reliable car.

I did get to take a couple of quick test shots of downtown Tulsa today.  Wasn't able to stay for long, as the sky was getting less photogenic as I checked out locations, so I called my scouting trip short.  I noticed as the afternoon continued, the overall light quality continued to drop until it was a fairly flat, overcast light, the kind that comes out white/grey in photos - yuck!

Thursday, February 6, 2014

New lens

With my move to specializing in landscape, cityscape and architectural photography I came to the conclusion that I needed to add to my lens arsenal as I lacked a higher quality wide(er) angle lens. In particular something wider than 28mm and to this end I paid a visit to my favorite online retailer - where I found a great deal on a Tokina 12-24mm f/4 zoom lens.

Now some may wonder why I picked this lens over other options such as the Nikon 12-24mm f/4 or even the Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8, which is very popular. My choice came down to reading some reviews by Ken Rockwell where he actually compared all of these lenses (and some others) and pointed out how little distortion was present in the Tokina 12-24mm f/4 compared to the others, in particular at the 12mm end where it only exhibited simple distortion while all the others exhibited complex distortion that was not able to be fully corrected. To me this was the major selling point as I wanted something that could be easily corrected for distortion and not require additional (and possibly lengthy) post production work, especially when shooting 9 exposure HDR brackets.

The lens arrived today and I spent a little while this evening testing it out on my Nikon D2X to ensure it didn't get knocked out of alignment in shipping - plus it's always a good idea to test out any used lens as there is a limited time to exchange it if there is anything wrong. Well, I can report that so far everything has checked out well and I'm certainly happy with my choice. This coming weekend I plan on getting outside and undertaking some further testing and just getting acclimated to how it handles. And yes, I will share one of my test shots that I took tonight, which while not landscape or architectural in nature did show how well the lens handles fine detail.

Meet our Maine-Coon cat Sylvester, who decided to pose nicely for me.

Sunday, January 19, 2014


Time is a strange thing that comes into play where photography is concerned as we possess the ability to capture moments of time and preserve them.  Moments captured for an eternity, or as long as the medium can physically last, that preserve our good times as well as our bad times.  As time marches forward in its unstoppable fashion, we can take a moment to look back at what has passed through the medium of photography.

This is one of the things I like about photography, that I can contribute to these memories both for myself and for others.  While we may not be able to see into the future, we can certainly see into the past and to a degree, bring it back into focus however fleetingly.

Yesterday I was in the Pearl District of Tulsa, OK.  This is one of the older neighborhoods of the city, close to the downtown area and from Centennial Park (6th & Peoria) you have some good views of the downtown skyline.  There is also an ornate, freestanding clock that always catches my eye.

Here it is, captured as a LDR Tonemap from a 9 exposure bracket set.  I took several sets from different angles but felt this one had the balance I wanted and also had minimal reflections and diffusion on the glass face.  And yes, I really was out photographing around the noon hour but then again I'm one of those that feels that the number 1 rule of photography is that there are no rules, only suggested guidelines.

Okay, back to the topic of this post - time.  Despite my ramblings, I did have a goal in mind for this post and its subject.  I wanted to dedicate this to someone for whom time ran out recently, my dad, Brian Mildon.  On Friday January 17th he passed away from a suspected heart attack at his home in Plymouth, England.

For us time meant not knowing each other as we had not been in contact at all for about 15 years, and previous to that there had been very limited contact.  We simply did not know each other very well.  Even while my parents were together, we did not or could not communicate.  To this day I do not know the reasoning behind our communication problems but I do know that everything that happened in our past has lead to this point right now and helped shape the person I am.  I don't even know if he knew of my photography work, and in turn this blog, that gives me the chance to communicate with countless people worldwide.

Time waits for no man, or woman, so don't let it go to waste.  Find love and happiness and make happy memories - maybe save them as photographs.