October is my favorite time of year: not only is it Mary’s birthday month, but the mornings are brisk and the aspens are turning gold. Winter is around the corner, so there’s still time to get outside and make photographs before the snow gets too deep and the temperatures get too chilly for my old bones. Shutterbug’s editorial offices are in Florida and sometimes when it’s cold and snowy I envy those lucky sun worshippers, and yet I still love October in Colorado. The crisp air gets me anxious to make new images and to capture infrared photographs before the leaves are gone with the wind. Just remember, as always, to have fun with your photography no matter what the weather is like.
Last year I tried a picture-a-day project and was surprised how difficult it was, but also found that it was a great way to stimulate creativity. In 2013, I’ll begin a similar project, this time using Tumblr (www.tumblr.com) because it’s free and the simplest way I know to create a photoblog. To get you inspired, I’ve rounded up four different photo-a-day blogs to show the diverse ways these talented photographers created their sites and blogs. Give it a try because it forces you to think—every day—about making new photographs. And the best way to improve your skills is to practice, practice, practice.
Portrait lighting sources have 4 major characteristics: color, direction, quantity and quality. When working with any light source, from speedlights to moonlights, the best way to improve the quality of your lighting is with modification devices such as an umbrella or a lightbank. Each one has their own advantages and disadvantages. But no matter which one you chose, each device is governed by this important rule. The closer a light source is to the subject the softer it is; the further away the light source is, the harder it becomes.
One of the first lighting kits I ever owned was a set of Smith-Victor Adapta-Lights that had screw-base sockets for photoflood lamps. Son of a gun, the company still offers Adapta-Lights as an entry-level solution for beginning portrait photographers who want to work with hot lights. On the other hand, if you prefer making portraits using electronic flash, Smith-Victor’s three-light FL700K Strobe Light Kit may be just what you’re looking for.
The FL700K Strobe Light Kit that I tested is designed for amateur photographers and aspiring pros and contains two FLC300 (320 ws) FlashLite and one 110i (110 ws) FlashLite monolights. The FLC300 monolights offer continuously variable flash power settings, a test button, a ready light, and an optical slave for wireless triggering and have an umbrella stand adapter that’s compatible with 3/8” through 5/8” light stand posts. To expand the kit’s capabilities, Smith-Victor offers more than 100 accessories and light modifiers for the FLC300 monolights, including softboxes, reflectors, snoots, grids, and barn doors. The 110i monolight has a full- or half-power setting, optical slave, small built-in reflector, and umbrella mount. When used together, all three lights give you lots of flexibility for lighting studio or on-location portraits.
At this time of year some Shutterbug readers are getting ready to go back to school while others, like me, feel they’ve already put in enough classroom seat time, but that doesn’t mean we should stop learning. One of the best ways to improve your photography is the self-assignment. Many people think they need to travel to exotic locations to do this, when chances are there are great photo ops just around the corner. For the past 30 years my personal self-assignment has been making images near my home. How close? I prefer making photographs I can easily walk to from my front door. This self-assignment wasn’t done for any commercial purpose and it’s personal projects like this that help us stretch our talents, skills, and imagination. What’s your self-assignment?
This month I am privileged to present four of the best fine art photographers working in the country. Bill Schwab’s introspective classical images made on collodion plates, the sweeping majesty of Michael Kahn’s handmade silver gelatin prints, and Lane Wilson’s lush images show why they are masters of monochrome photography. Even Cole Thompson’s Blog-of-the-Month resonates with expertise and vision that is at once traditional yet as new as a sunrise. Join me as we take a look at their websites and blog, and prepare to be inspired.
Studio lighting equipment is available in either continuous or electronic flash configurations. Continuous lighting is “on” continuously, much like a light bulb or the sun for that matter, enabling you to use your in camera light meter to measure and see how the light falls on your subject. Continuous lighting sources use photoflood, quartz, or HMI (Hydrargyrum Medium-Arc Iodide) bulbs, which can be hot, leading to the use of the term “hot lights.” An increasing number of continuous lighting tools use Compact Fluorescent Lamps (CFL) or LEDs, producing what are, in effect, “cool” hot lights.
If you’re looking for European build quality at a reasonable price, Multiblitz’s series of Profilux monolights are a good place to start. Built in Germany, the two Profilux models—250 and 500 watt second versions—are the perfect tool for the serious amateur or established professional and feature fast recycling times, short flash durations, and consistent color temperatures. The Profilux 250 has a five-stop power range that’s adjustable in 1/10-stop increments with a modeling lamp that delivers an expected service life of 2000 hours. The Profilux 500 delivers all of the same features as the 250 but with twice the output power.
One trend much in evidence for lighting these days is the use of LED as a light source. Rotolight, distributed in the US by R.T.S. Inc. (www.rtsphoto.com), has several new products in this space, beginning with their RL48-B RingLight. As a continuous light source, the Rotolight is useful for video or still photography. The basic RL48-B includes a filter holder and a Lee Filters Calibration Filter Kit (CTO: 205, 223, and 285; ND/Diffusion: 298, 209, and 216).
For the past 10 years, my personal photography has enjoyed a burst of creativity that Mary alternately credits to a change in camera brands and a change in my home office environment. Certainly living and working on Daisy Hill has renewed my interest in personal assignments, but I think improvements in imaging technology are another catalyst. How can hardware and software increase or help a person’s pursuit of creativity?