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Improving composition in photography

It always amazes me how the smallest changes in composition can make vast differences in photographs.  Here's a good example.  

 I was walking in the deserted park near our house and was intrigued by the shadows cast on the crisp snow by the leafless, hibernating trees.  Because the snow had fallen two days earlier, there were footprints from people who had rushed through the park in the subzero weather.  And holes in the blanket of white crystals from clumps of snow that had been resting in the silent trees, but were blown by the icy winds to the ground below.

 I pulled my Ricoh GR to my eye and shot this first image. 

I liked it, but was instantly aware of two areas.  The first was at the top right, where the two trunks of the tree overlapped each other.  To my mind, it created a very heavy presence that pulled my eye to that portion of the photograph.  The other areas was at the top left, where it felt like there was too much space between the left edge of the image, and the first tree trunk.  I decided to make another image to address those concerns.

 The change was slight, but I moved to the left.  By doing so, I opened up some space between the two trunks on the right so they no longer felt as imposing, and at the same time widened my field of view so the trees on the left moved closer to the edge of the frame.


 When I look at the second image, it is easier for my eye to go to the small branch in the snow at the bottom and its relationship to the shadows next to it.   Since that is what called me to the spot in the first place, I feel it is the more successful in portraying my intent.  And by reframing, the composition feels lighter, and more balanced. 

What do you think?


Tiffen Dfx Creative Digital Effects review begins


There are several editing suites out there for manipulating digital images, and I've used many of them.  But I'm always interested in seeing what is out there.  So recently, I downloaded Tiffen Dfx Creative Digital Effects 3.0 to see what it had to offer.  Since I had a lot of experience over the years working with Tiffen glass filters, I was interested to see how they would apply their expertise to the digital environment.

I was pleased by the fact that the Dfx website had a number of tutorials to help get the ball rolling.  Once I started in with my first image, I was impressed by the workspace layout and how easy and logical it was to navigate.  There are over 120 filters grouped into seven categories, and within the categories are the variations on the specific theme.  There are thousands of presets, and lots of ways to customize the filters as you apply them.  And they can be stacked to create unique effects.

I plan on digging into the program more in the next couple of weeks and reporting back with more information.  For now, I would say the program seems robust, well thought out, and offers lots of options to quickly adjust an image.

Here's a very quick example of what I did with the first image I ran through the program.

Original fileFaux Film FilterPro Mist 10 Filter



Chimera 30 inch beauty dish is a winner

I just had an opportunity to shoot a test with the Chimera 30 inch beauty dish, and boy was I impressed.

I've always liked working with traditional beauty dishes with my studio strobe units.  They have a light quality that is a bit more snap than an umbrella or softbox, so it's one more great tool in crafting an image.  The only problem is that they are generally made of heavy duty metal, so taking them on location is a challenge because of their weight and size.

Well, Chimera has come up with a great solution.  Similar to all their great softboxes, the beauty dish uses tent-pole type rods to help the dish pop up from a folded size of 8.5 x 32 inches into a 30 inch fully functional circular dish in about a minute.  Your lights mount with a standard Octa Speed Ring, available for most brands of strobes.  Even better, you can use the Versi Octa and Dual Versi Octa to mount speedlights as well.

As usual, the designers at Chimera have thought things through really well.  They have a center bounce back disk that transmits a portion of the light so the black donut hole effect seen with traditional beauty dishes is minimized, and it even comes with a front diffusion panel so it essentially becomes a 30 inch Octa bank. 

As you can see from the image above, the light quality is really wonderful.  I wholeheartedly recommend it for a great portable lighting modifier.

OB30 Specs:

folds down for storage into a 8.5 x 32 inch duffle (included)

weighs 1.2 lb.

Optional 50 degree fabric eggcrate grid is available.



Day Three at the speedlight workshop at Anderson Ranch


Our next step in learning how to make compelling photographs with speedlights at Anderson Ranch Art Center was to work with shifting the white balance of the camera, and then adding gels over the speedlight to create an interesting effect.

In the demonstration,  I first shot a frame with normal daylight balance. 

Then I changed the white balance to tungsten.  By doing this, the camera thinks the lighting is more yellow than in daylight, and adds blue to the file to compensate.

 This adds a richer blue to the sky and all the other elements lit by the sun, and even by a speedlight, which is daylight balanced.

 To correct this, I placed a Rosco full  CTO gel over the speedlight to bring the white balance to tungsten, thus making the light appear neutral to the camera.

 Finally, I added two more speedlights to the left rear and directly behind my subject to separate him from the background.  These units also had CTO gel on them.

 The key light was a Canon speedlight inside a  LightwareDirect Foursquare softbox, and the two Canon fill lights had Rogue grids from Expo Imaging on them. 


Day Two at the speedlight workshop at Anderson Ranch

Having learned the basics of working with Speedlights at our workshop at the Anderson Ranch Art Center, this morning I started with a demonstration of how to add fill to an outdoor situation.

I started with the camera in Aperture Priority to get a baseline for the ambient exposure.  Once I had that, I went to manual mode and darkened the background up another stop to make it more dramatic.  With that done, I added a Speedlight inside a LightwareDirect Foursquare softbox at about a 30 degree angle to the left of the camera in ETTL mode.  Once I saw what the camera thought was a good exposure, I made a final adjustment by increasing the flash compensation until I had the skin tones where I wanted them.  That done, workshop attendees practiced this concept in a number of locations around Anderson Ranch.

After lunch, we went back into the studio to start working with two light scenarios.  We started with the LightwareDirect Foursquare softbox as our key light and then added a Rogue Grid from Expo Imaging on a light off to the right.  Here's what came from that quick demonstration.

After attendees practiced this approach, I demonstrated working with modifiers as the key light to create more drama.

In the picture below, the Rogue Grid from Expo Imaging was used as the key light off to the right at eye level.  The LightwareDirect Foursquare was used a the fill light from the left side toward the rear to give separation.