“Lighting is really common sense and personal observation. This is applied to a few rules of photography which cannot be broken and to others which I tend to bend a little.”—Paul Beeson
A monolight or monobloc to our European friends is a self-contained studio flash that is typically, but not always, powered by an AC power source and allows for different light modification devices, including reflectors, light banks, or umbrellas. The key phrase in that last sentence is self-contained. To my way of thinking the biggest advantage monolights possess is just that—if you’re shooting on location or for that matter anywhere and the power pack in a pack and head system stops working, so do you. If you have a couple of monolights and one of them fails, you can still shoot.
During a portrait session and perhaps to a lesser extent when shooting a wedding, you can control the lighting, background, and subject. During a portrait session, I try to manage everything from the subject’s pose, clothing, and makeup and the resulting photographs tend to be as much a portrait of me as they are of my subject. What often emerges from that control is a style, which is not something I’m conscious about when photographing, but the truth is that over time we all develop a signature way of shooting. The danger is that we keep shooting that same way or different versions of the same shot for the rest of our lives. Any style you develop must grow and change as you learn. Otherwise, what’s the point? As we continue to shoot and learn from experience, and reading magazines like Shutterbug, we start to tweak and improve those results until what emerges is truly a personal style.
Maybe it was the 17th Earl of Oxford (www.shakespeare-oxford.com) who really wrote the above line but it’s a nice thought nevertheless. The quote’s actual authorship was the concept proposed in the film Anonymous as well. (Look for a review of the film on my movie blog www.ihatepopcorn.com.) What’s for sure is that the creative endeavors of the four wedding photographers featured this month display work that transcends the genre, producing images of beauty, sensitivity, and love. And isn’t that what weddings are all about?
Color Efex Pro 4 is Nik Software’s (www.niksoftware.com) latest version of its digital photographic filter plug-ins for retouching and creative enhancements. It is Mac OS and Windows compatible and installs as a 32-bit and 64-bit plug-in for Adobe Photoshop CS4 or later, Lightroom 2.6 or later, Photoshop Elements 8 or later, or Apple Aperture 2.1.4 or later. The installer searches for all of the hosts that are on your computer and if you already have Photoshop, Lightroom, and Aperture installed, as I do, it will install Color Efex Pro 4 for all of the host applications.
One of the biggest improvements in Color Efex Pro 4 is the ability to use Filter Combinations that let you stack multiple filters, adjust each one’s opacity, and make selective adjustments to get the desired look. Each filter contains single-click starting points, making it possible to explore different options. Shades of Emeril Lagasse, there are Filter Recipes that let you customize and share filter combinations with others. Bam! Reminiscent of HDR Efex Pro, the 10 recipes that are part of the package are a quick way to get started using Color Efex Pro 4 and more are available for download on Nik Software’s website.
In January I featured the work of Thomas Lee (www.thomasleephoto.com) in this column and while researching for this month, I came across the outstanding work of Ralph Lee. This coincidence got me to thinking: why not have an entire Web Profiles featuring photographers named “Lee,” a surname derived from Old English leah or meadow. The most interesting part of my search was discovering that these photographers are a diverse lot, stylistically and geographically, even though they all have the same surname. I’ve introduced them here in alphabetical order with Jeff Lee last as the custom for “Blog-of-the-Month.”
As a creative medium, traditionalists may call black-and-white photographs “monochrome” while some digital imagers may prefer the more computerese “grayscale,” but there’s more to this medium than just an absence of color. One of the reasons that purists prefer “monochrome” is that it’s a more precise term that covers images created using sepia and other tones. Many digital cameras have Black and White or Sepia modes that let you capture images directly in monochrome but these photographs are really color (RGB) files without any color! If you prefer, you can capture your images in color then use any of the software I’ll introduce this month to convert that color photograph into a monochromatic one. You’ll also find a few useful hardware tools to make your photographic life a bit easier.
“We’ve got to consider the pros and cons, make a list, get advice…” —Jim Backus in Rebel Without a Cause
I don’t blame you for being confused. I just tested the EOS Rebel T3i, which I really, really liked, and along comes this review of the EOS Rebel T3. What’s the difference? In practical terms the Rebel T3 is somewhat smaller in size, lower in resolution (12.2 vs. 18 megapixel), and lacks the T3i’s swiveling LCD screen. Oh yeah, and it’s cheaper, too. But is it any good?
The half-frame 35mm Olympus Pen F was introduced in 1963 and featured none other than the late W. Eugene Smith, cigarette dangling from his lips, in magazine ads of the time. Its latest digital incarnation, the E-P3, is built using the Micro Four Thirds system that unlike the Pen F is not half-frame and uses the same chip size (17.3x13mm) as the standard Four Thirds system. Like the original Pen F, it’s an extremely sophisticated camera wrapped in a compact, interchangeable lens body that delivers SLR performance and lots more. The E-P3 is the flagship of the Olympus Micro Four Thirds system and part of a family of compact cameras that includes the E-PL3, E-PM1 a.k.a. Mini, new lenses, and a clever little wireless speedlight.
Many people’s New Year’s resolution is to lose weight and since, as of this writing, I’ve lost 53 lbs, that’s low on my list of possibilities. Last year in this column I announced a resolution to make a new photograph every day and post in a gallery called “2011 Photo of the Day” (http://farace.smugmug.com). If you visit it, you’ll see that I’ve only partially succeeded. The project turned out to be much harder than I expected and only heightened my appreciation of some of the Picture-a-Day blogs and websites featured in Web Profiles during 2011. Instead, my 2012 New Year’s resolution is to update all of my websites and blogs and I’m well on my way, including a long-overdue update to www.joefarace.com. In the meantime, you can draw some inspiration from the websites and blogs that are featured to kick off the New Year.
The monolights that I’ve recently tested for Shutterbug combine power supply and flash head into a single unit. Handy, but an alternative approach is using power pack and flash head systems, such as those made by Broncolor (www.bronimaging.com), who offer these components as individual units that can be mixed and matched to produce different lighting setups.