An Eclipse over Hartford

Click for full screen image. Taken at 1/80 second at f/8, ISO 100 with a EF300mm f/4L IS USM @ 300 mm on a Canon Canon EOS 5D Mark III

Click for full screen image.
Taken at 1/80 second at f/8, ISO 100 with a EF300mm f/4L IS USM @ 300 mm on a Canon Canon EOS 5D Mark III

The sunrise clouds conspired to block most of the solar eclipse this morning, but I was able to catch a momentary glimpse as, a few minutes before it ended, the sun peeked through the cloud cover. Despite the eclipse itself being a bit disappointing to view from here, it was still an incredible sunrise over the Connecticut River Valley.

It was also a reminder of the cold winter weather that is just around the corner, and got me in the mindset to update my Winter Photography in New York presentation, which I’ll be delivering at the Charter Oak Photographic Society next week.

FROGINATOR-SNAG-0002That presentation also includes a section on how digital tools increase our ability to both scout and execute while shooting. Fitting, since this I found this location using Google Maps, The Photographer’s Ephemeris, and Panaramio. Then pre-visualized the images using field-of-view calculations, distances using Google Maps’ rule tool, and comparables from other Hartford skyline images from a different location. As a result, I knew roughly the frame I would see and then had some ideas for the images I was going to make before ever seeing or stepping foot at the location. See the thumbnails in the image to the right for full geekery. Note the building are roughly the same size in the frame as the final shot above.


Sunset from the Getty

Click for full screen image.
Taken at 1/20 second at f/5.6, ISO 100 with a EF70-200mm f/2.8L USM @ 100 mm

After such a beautiful rainbow an equally vibrant sun setting behind the clouds was in order last Friday. The light was fading fast, though, and I wanted to keep a low ISO for the high contrast scene since I knew I would be boosting the shadows.

However, the Getty doesn’t allow you to use tripods, even outdoors on the grounds.

Introducing … the Railpod

No tripod? No problem! Just a little creative use of my really right stuff bracket, my Kata strap, and a railing meant a totally stable, nice and level, uhh … railpod? Nothing like using an entire museum to keep your camera steady.

At some point I’ll share the chairpod … version one of my solution before I came up with this one. If you are a Canon shooter going to the Getty in Los Angeles, well, here’s what worked for me:

The Canon zoom lens tripod foot with a Really Right Stuff L-84 foot plate nicely clicks onto the smaller, lower railing giving it quite a bit of hold. It won’t stand on its own, but you can hand hold quite effectively using the technique. If you’re crazy about 30 second exposure like me, next try taking your camera strap, looping it up and over the railing and then back around so the body is sitting down in the strap. If your strap is long enough to be worn safari-style it might just reach perfectly like mine did. Voila, instant tripod.

The best part was doing all of this with a big ‘ole tripod strapped to my back, since I didn’t know before I came up that I couldn’t use it! They almost kicked me out to go back to the car and put it away, but playing dumb and stubborn worked well enough to let me keep it strapped to my back outside.

Wine Photos, every bottle is the same, right?

Click for full screen image.
Taken at 1/125 second at f/16, ISO 125 with a EF100mm f/2.8 Macro USM @ 100 mm

So, every bottle is the same, once you get that first one done, right? If it was, I wouldn’t be writing this post! Besides the obvious difference between white and reds there are a number of other differences that can significantly change your lighting needs and overall setup.

The biggest differences between bottles is:

  • White vs Red
  • Clear vs Translucent vs Opaque bottle
  • Color and reflectivity of the capsule
  • Color and reflectivity of the label
  • Size
Ideally, you will want to have a basic setup that remains the same for all of your different products. You may have to tweak and adjust and add more light for some products as you go, but by having a solid, flexible base lighting setup that works for the simplest bottles you have the most flexibility. Also, this means you don’t have to reinvent the wheel every time, and will get the most consistency in your set of images.

The image to the right is an example of a major challenge because the label. Unlike the bottle posted yesterday or the day before, the label on the front has a black, matte square with silver foil lettering. At the bottom of this post you’ll see an example of this bottle as first photographed using the same setup as the original bottles of Jones Winery Harvest Time. You’ll notice that except for a small strip of light, you can not see the actual label and name at all!

Tomorrow (or Monday…) I will post more details the changes required in the basic setup to accommodate this new challenge. I will say that it involved, in the end, two large pieces of foam core, an additional flash, and a large, translucent diffuser. It also took a couple more hours of building up the overall light in order to get everything completely balanced.

Here’s a bonus suggestion. If you are interested in photographic lighting, I cannot recommend Light: Science & Magic highly enough. It is both theory and practical, and although it is often used as a textbook, it is not dry and unreadable like one. You will learn a lot about light, how it behaves in photographic settings, and how to use that behavior to your advantage.

Click for full screen image.
Taken at 1/125 second at f/16, ISO 125 with a EF100mm f/2.8 Macro USM @ 100 mm

Try the wine (photography)

Click for full screen image.
Taken at 1/125 second at f/16, ISO 125 with a EF16-35mm f/2.8L II USM @ 16 mm

Here’s a bit more detail about the setup for the wine photography. I’ll be posting more pics over the next few days, including some examples of the continued challenges that I faced with different bottles. Can you say black label w/ silver foil lettering?

In the opening shot you see the camera on a tripod, and the laptop I was using to shoot tethered in the foreground. Shooting tethered to a laptop using Lightroom 3 is a really fantastic solution when you want to see big, real-time, high detail previews. As good as the LCD screens have gotten on the back of cameras, they are still not nearly as good as “real” monitors. It would be been much more challenging to create really high quality end results if every time I had to check the detail work I had to take out the card, load it into Lightroom, and then make changes. When shooting tethered, you can even apply your previous picture’s settings such as crop and rotate!

When photographing something like a wine bottle, it is incredibly challenging to take a photo without any specular highlights. The mat boards on either side of the bottle are there to keep stray light from coming in and creating highlights. The strip lights also created highlights on the bottle when they fired. In the end, I ended up shooting two shots, one w/ each strip light, and actually physically turned the inactive light around backwards or the white diffusion fabric of the inactive light would still cause a small highlight when light by the white backdrop.

Click for full screen image.
Taken at 1/125 second at f/16, ISO 125 with a EF16-35mm f/2.8L II USM @ 16 mm

Here is another view of the front lights and one of the backdrop lights. While I am working in a fairly constrained space, my goal was to keep the backdrop lights as much off of actual product itself. The backdrop itself ended up being a major light source for the photo, especially for the white wines. Unlike a traditional white backdrop or cyc wall, however, I could not simply blow out the background or the color of the wine would end up changing too drastically, or blow out itself! Again you can see the large mat board pieces in the photo. Not only do they serve to keep the backdrop lights from directly hitting the glass, they also serve to surround the bottle in white as much as possible. Without draping a giant sheet around the entire setup it is very challenging to get rid of *all* of the specular highlights or in this case the red wall highlights!

Click for full screen image.
Taken at 1/125 second at f/16, ISO 125 with a EF16-35mm f/2.8L II USM @ 16 mm

Here is one more angle showing the back side and the other background light. On the right side you can see additional mat board used to extend the white background of the seamless. And seamless it was NOT, which turned out to be another interesting point. I ended up running a piece of gaff tape along the mat board and seamless because the simple, small gap between the two caused a shadow, which created a thin but highly visible black line down the side of the bottle. Just to make matters more confusing, in the liquid, the reflections are reversed. So the reflections on the RIGHT side of the bottle are from problems on the LEFT side of the frame.

Click for full screen image.
Taken at 1/125 second at f/16, ISO 125 with a EF100mm f/2.8 Macro USM @ 100 mm

And finally, here is an example of the two-shot composite. It was a very simple and quick edit. I highlighted the two images in Lightroom, one with each of the two front flashes having fired, and then selected EDIT – OPEN IN LAYERS IN PHOTOSHOP. Once they were opened, I just changed the blend mode of the top image to DARKEN and, voila, the darker parts of the images “won” and the strip light highlights on the glass simply vanished.

Harvest Time Wine

Click for full screen image.
Taken at 1/125 second at f/16, ISO 125 with a EF100mm f/2.8 Macro USM @ 100 mm

Here is a straight-out-of-the-camera shot of a bottle of Harvest Time Wine from the Philip Jamison Jones Winery in Shelton, CT. I’m working on product shots for all of their different wines, and will have some behind the scenes shots and other tips, as well as some examples of finished shots over the next few days.

Now I think it is time to go enjoy the fruits of some labors! Who has the corkscrew?

Hello New York. Goodbye New York


Click for full screen image.
Taken at 1/500 second at f/5.6, ISO 400 with a EF24-105mm f/4L IS USM @ 24 mm

By the time this posts I’ll be back in my car heading home from a quick trip to teach a Lightroom class at B&H Photo. While this particular class is an internal offering to the B&H marketing department, I’ll be teaching a slightly shortened version of curriculum at Rick Sammon’s Croton Creative workshop this October! Rick still has a few spots left, so check out his really great offering if you want almost a week of intense learning, photographing and fun.

I may be offering the 3-4 hour class elsewhere this fall or winter. The syllabus encompasses utilizing Lightroom as your complete workflow system, from import to rating, organizing to developing and all types of output, and covers not just basic features but practical applications and best practices. If this is something that sounds like it might be interesting to you, I’d love to get a comment back to know that there is enough interest so I can set up some sessions.

Times Square, NYC – Motion!

Click for full screen image!
Taken at 1/6 second at f/11, ISO 800 with a EF16-35mm f/2.8L II USM @ 35 mm

So, are you joining Rick SammonJuan PonsSmugmug and me in Times Square this Saturday for Rick Sammon’s Times Square Shooting Session? If not, you should be! It is free and, best of all, fun.

I’ll be posting images from Times Square this week along with assorted, miscellaneous and random tips as I see fit! For more information about shooting in Times Square and all over NYC, check out my book Photographing New York City on Amazon or in bookstores.

Just like there is an unlimited number of people in Times Square, there are myriad varieties of motion you can capture. Handheld or with a tripod (watch out for tripod police and that you aren’t blocking the flow of traffic), you can practice panning movements (try 1/6 to 1/15 second on shutter priority mode) or exposures that capture a variety of movement in the scene. And since it is digital, practice all you want.

Click for full screen image!
Click for full screen image!Taken at 1/4 second at f/6.3, ISO 800 with a EF85mm f/1.2L II USM @ 85 mm



Notes & Links for Winter Photography in New York

Will Ryman's "The Roses" blooming in the snow of Park Avenue the morning of 2/21/2011

Thank you for spending your afternoon with me today at B&H Photo Video as we chatted about photographing New York City in the winter. Below I’ve compiled a list of links to all of the items we discussed today. If you want to touch and feel them, nearly every item except some of the clothing is carried at B&H! I hope you enjoyed the talk and find this list useful. Now get out there and shoot!


Photographing New York City Digital Field Guide

Gear Solutions & Suggestions

2.5 gallon ziploc bags
Think Tank Camera Cases
AquaTech rain covers
Op/Tech Rainsleeves
Black Rapid RS7
Gitzo Tripod Shoulder Strap

Keeping Warm

Under Armour Metal legs
Under Armour Metal mock turtleneck
Cabela’s Polartec top
Cabela’s Polartec bottoms
5.11 Tactical pants
Under Armour Special Ops Hoodie
Cabela’s Windshear Fleece
ExOfficio Canopy Trench – No longer available from ExOfficio! 🙁


Aqua Tech Sensory Gloves (Large)
Polypro Glove Lines
Heat Pack hand warmers
Heat Pack Toe Warmers

Planning & On Location Resources Links (including smartphone apps)
See previous blog post here:


Chinese New Year

Don’t forget the details

Carrot fingers!

There are many details to remember, but the one I’m speaking of here is the detail shots. If you plan on making a book, album, slideshow or any other presentation, having detail shots provides backgrounds and segues between topics.