Saturday, November 19, 2016

The Flame Catcher.

Superhero movies and posters can come from a lot of inspiration and it can be fun creating such posters. This was an attempt at one of those.

One of the things I sometimes get to do is to hang out with other photographers and experiment with lights. The photograph below was made along with “Going banana photography” .

Abhimanyu, became the model for the poster and Prashila was working behind the scenes with lights. After loads of experimenting, we came to this photo.

Orb of fire

The photo is a three light setup. There is a reflector bowl with a grid on it  on camera left, this creates a controlled pool of light only to light up the shirt and part of the face. On camera right, there is a snoot with a grid on it to add a hint of light on the shoulder and light to the face from the other side. This helps in separating him from the background. There is a third light for the fire. To create the impact of the fire, there is a flash which has been gelled in yellow along with a flash diffuser, this creates the light effect that as if he is holding fire. If someone were to hold fire there would be some light spilling from the fire on the person. Here is the lighting setup.

Once the photo was clicked, we took the image into Photoshop. Then, I added a few photos of fire on separate layers. The Photoshop layers with flames had lower opacity, about 25-30 % , to hide the flash held in hand.  Thereafter , I merged  all the layers together to make it looks like he is holding fire.

This technique is called compositing when we stack photos one on top of another. You can read more about it on the following link. Until next time happy shooting.

Friday, October 14, 2016

Macro perspective on a budget!

If you are interested in getting really close and doing photography of really small things then macro photography is your thing. If you try with your normal kit lens or with a 55-200 mm lens which is in most peoples kit you will notice you cant get close enough. When you do the camera would not focus!!! The reason for this, your lens as a minimum focusing distance of the lens does not allow this. As a result the object is too close or is closer than than the minimum focusing distance. You can find the minimum focusing distance on the technical specifications on your lens manufactures website for the Nikon 18-55 it is 0.28 m and for Canon 18-55 0.25 m. The second option is to zoom in and then take a photo and then crop in to get photo. When you zoom in the photo looks really pixelated. Below is an image I have made at 55 mm using a 500-200 mm lens at f22

(55-200 f4-5.6) 55 mm ƒ/22 ISO 400 1/15
If you can get your hands on a 55-200(Nikon) lens or 55-250 (Canon) mm lens then the result is sightly better. The below photo is with the same setup with me zooming in and the cropping the photo

(55-200 f4-5.6) 200 mm ƒ/22 ISO 400 1/15
There is however a couple of alternatives on the cheap, you could use an extension tube. An extension tube fits between the lens and the camera body on the lens giving you the option to get closer to your subject. This is great except that your camera may not be able to tell you that if the subject is in focus. The extension tube as the name suggest extends your lens so it adds distance. With more distance there is loss of light. With loss of light your camera does not always auto-focus. There are two kinds of extension tubes ones which are manual locus ones and one which have auto focus. The auto focus ones are more expensive. Another option is to use a reversal macro ring. What this does is it attaches itself on the front of your camera lens and then you can mount your lens backwards on your camera there by the part which mounts is actually outside and the front part is on the camera mount. This is an okay solutions but you don't get auto focus and also don't get to control your aperture. This will tempt you to start looking around for macro lenses you will see they are not cheap.

There is however another option - get a Close-Up Macro Filter which attach it in front of your lens. What this is a series of glass attachments which help you get closer to the subject.
Below is a photo made using the same setup but I zoomed in at 105 mm with the attachment. This is the image which fills up the frame. and does not require me to crop in to get the same perspective as above. This is great if you have to really blow up the image the details are preserved and you can really do some amazing macro work.
(55-200 f4-5.6) 105 mm ƒ/22 ISO 400 1/15
What's more is that this setup starts at about Rs 300 and goes up to about Rs 1000. The price varies depending on your lens thread and the quality of glass. You can buy it off your favourite e-commerce site and get started with macro photography.

It is not as good as a dedicated macro lens but close enough.. Below is an image made using a 105 mm f2.8 micro lens by Nikkor. which is way more expensive than this macro adaptor. There is a difference in terms of colour rendition, overall sharpness, compression and lens distortion. Macro lens's can also stop down to insanely small numbers. This Nikkor lens can close down to f45 which is a really small aperture which works great for macro work.

(105 mm f2.8 Mico) 105 mm ƒ/22 ISO 400 1/15
If you are serious about macro photography then renting one would make more sense or you could buy one. Check out Ken Rockwell's website on various macro lenses and how shoot macro. If you are on the fence about doing macro work this is a great way to find out if you are really interested in the subject before you drop a lot of money on the lens.

Below are some examples of me using the macro close up filter on few of my existing lenses

18.0-55.0 mm f/3.5-5.6 ƒ/13.0  55.0 mm 1/60  250

55.0-200.0 mm f/4.0-5.6 ƒ/22.0  55.0 mm 1/200

18.0-55.0 mm f/3.5-5.6 ƒ/13.0  45.0 mm 1/125

If you liked this post and found it useful do share it with your friends and subscribe to get updates on my posts straight in your inbox. Until next time happy shooting.

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Olympics, the human spirit and some memorable moments captured!!!

Every Four years we have an amazing congregation of athletes from around the world. They compete against each other representing their country. All those who make it to the medal round are elite, representing a small minuscule percentage of the population of the Earth. They are individuals who were given natural gifts and had an opportunity to maximise it and they did. The medal rounds represents their effort, perseverance and mental fortitude to fulfil their potential.

Though these are the very best of the best there are accompanied by another set of elite human beings. The photographers who capture these breath taking moments with their camera and send it across the world. These photographers are masters of their craft. To put it in perspective they have sometimes have a few moments to make a photo and send it over the inter-webs!!! Most of them shoot jpeg not raw (Sheer volume of data is mind numbingly high to shoot raw). If you shoot raw you are out of space and perhaps miss a moment! To get it right they have to shoot manual everything - ISO, shutter, aperture and white balance. (Most of them either shooting custom white balance for each location or sometimes between shoots fix white balance in post processing as a batch fix)

Here are some of the many memorable moments from the Olympics and a brief breakdown of what I see.

The above image is PV Sindhu making a shot of-course. But take a look in terms of composition -having both the athlete in the top thirds and the shuttle in the bottom third all while managing a ultra-telephoto lens shooting from way above and thinking about the depth of field (long lenses tend to have less depth of field) If the aperture is really small the whole photo is not in focus then having to balance a really fast shutter with high ISO speed to freeze motion.

The photo above the Russian team competes with ribbon rotation - This may look like a simple shot but this perfect circle with the dancers jumping backward happened only once during entire routine. Yes that's right, only once! Add to that if the frame is off just a bit this image is not possible. The dancers moved all over the floor. In this case the photographer had to have kept in mind the lens choice, beforehand apart from the all of the above discussed level of difficulty. (I am shaking my head in dis-belief one shot)

How about this photo of Marcel Nguyen flying off horizontal bar to finish off his routine. he forms a perfect diagonal line and his head is on the thirds line!!!! The focus dead on. Fast glass pre-visualisation and being ready when the moment arises. All this with all the difficulty explained above.

Capturing "the moment" is as an art and requires the same level of dedication that athlete put in their field. The athlete focus for months and sometimes for years on this single goal. It's a once in a life time opportunity for many of them. Same is true for the photographers. They have years of experience behind them, many missed moments in games, many failed attempts at capturing a photo, working through different lens combinations and understanding use of multiple cameras and multiple flashes.

The athletes concentrate, keep their emotions in check, fight though pain, sacrifice family time and many of the things normal people take for granted. Then with each passing day as they get closer to the goal, dealing with the next opponent, the media, family and not to mention the host of distractions. They channel all this energy for the next game, the next opponent, the next event and then... finally the moment arises, - the final victory - It's theirs!. At that moment we see this burst of emotions. Emotions which cannot be recreated, a spontaneous release of all that pent up energy, hard-work and dedication released, all in that one one single moment. For the photographer it's the same, years of practice, experience of situations and knowing their gear along like their second skin. Add to this they need to have knowledge of the game, the players involved and their tendencies - how they celebrate and how they in defeat. The perfect moment captured is a summation of all this. 

While the athlete exhales and celebrates the photographers captures the moment. The moment will be gone but the photo with emotion will live on for all of us to see. All I would like to say is to the Olympic photographers out there a big salute!

All the photos below and many others encapsulate these emotions.  Read on to know my favourite photo

Before we get my favourite photo check out the many behind the scenes of what goes into creating these amazing photos. Most photographers have at least two cameras

Now for my favourite photo of the entire tournament. The photo is of Usain Bolt running ahead of the entire pack and looking back and cheekily smiling as he crosses the line. What is amazing is that the photographer was looking to make a panning shot and not only did he nail it he got an amazing photo of Usain looking back. Enjoy the photo and check out the full interview of Cameron Spencer, on how he made the photo. 

If you saw something else in these photos or found a beautiful photo from Rio which caught your eye share in the comments below.