Thursday, July 15, 2010

welcome to light [now - michael anthony murphy :: blog]

So, here it goes. Today kicks off the first of soon to be many blogs from yours' truly, Michael. I thought the water droplet photo would be appropriate for the first post. A single drop, creating a infinite amount of ripples to follow. Okay, that was corny. But that's what the blog is all about right?

Here at light I will discuss various photography techniques as well as post production techniques. And, so I don't bore everyone to death with endless technical dribble, I'd also like to share some life experiences that I've learned along the way.

First of all, I shoot with a Canon DSLR and with that beautiful weapon I also use Canon lenses. For light, I choose Canon and also due to the awesome price, I like the Vivitar 285. We will get into specifics in later posts. When I am ready to edit, I load the images onto my Mac mini, and open up the wonderful Adobe Creative Suite software. Many photographers enjoy using Lightroom, but I have found that Photoshop is most effective. That's my personal preference. If you like Lightroom, well I guess we could still be friends.

I'm sure most of you have seen water droplet photography. You may think to yourself, that seems easy enough. Next you grab your cell phone or point and shoot, and start firing away at any drips of water you find. The results? Ah, not what you hoped, right? Okay, here is the secret, and this message will self destruct in 5 seconds. Maybe not, but it would be cool. Back to business. The two things you will need are Light and Patience. The latter you may not be able to buy at your local camera shop. I set the shot up very easily. First I put a large bowl of water on a table. Next find a colored background that you think would reflect nicely into the water. After that I find a wire hanger (sorry Mommy Dearest, I keep the wire hangers!) and pull it apart to create a double ended hook. One end of the hanger hangs from the kitchen light (my wife would kill me) and the other end hangs a bag of water just above the bowl. Poke a hole in the bag with a pin and now you're ready. This is the basic setup for this shot. Not too complicated is it?

Next is the gear set up. I use a tripod so I will not have to play with any focus settings once I have the shot ready to go. For this particular shot, I used a Canon 50mm f/1.4 usm lens. Now I get the drip focused. You may find this part difficult. What I do is use a ruler or a pen and place vertically just where the water is landing. I then get the focus and set the lens to manual focus so I don't have to think about that anymore. Camera is in manual mode at its sync speed of 1/200, an aperture of f/9.0, and ISO 100. Almost ready to shoot!

Now the Light. A very critical factor in the setup of water droplet photography. This can be done by firing the light wirelessly off of the hotshoe or or on the shoe as I did for this particular photo. My light of choice for this shot was the Canon 430exII. I was able to leave the light on camera since I was so close to the water. I had the light snooted as well to avoid any spill. For the new shooters, a snoot is a light modifier that is basically looks like a funnel. It channels the light into a narrow beam. While the camera was angled down at almost a 45 degree angle toward the water, the adjustable speedlight was parallel to the water, directed at the orange background. The background I chose was very inexpensive, a cloth shopping bag from Wholefoods. It may have even been free, I don't remember.

Now everything is ready to go. Again, the snooted light is just above the water so its narrow beam will hit directly on the background. From there the light will bounce back and illuminate the water just as desired. Oh, the Canon speedlight, along with its ability to swivel the head to just about any angle, yo can also adjust how much power it puts out. For this shot I was somewhere around 1/32 power. Back to the one item you needed earlier in the post, Patience! Now that I have the shot in place, I start firing away. No, you will not get the perfect drip on the first shot. On this day, I probably shot the dripping over 200 frames! Patience, Patience, Patience. I could've gotten lucky on the first one, that would have been great. But in photography, that is where Murphy's Law comes into play. "Whatever can go wrong, will go wrong."

I finally finish the session, hundreds of shots later. It wasn't as time consuming as you may think. I keep the camera in continuous firing mode so that when I hold the shutter down, I fire off somewhere around 5 frames per second. And that all depends on wether or not the flash doesn't misfire. No matter which flash you use, it will misfire at that rate. It's not a problem with the light, it's just that they have a recycle time that depends on how much battery life is there and the power setting you are using. If I fired at 1/64th power, I'd get many less misfires. At 1/1 power, many more misfires. You get the idea, i hope.

At this point I am ready to edit in photoshop. I open the RAW files in Bridge to see which are my absolute favorite. I found very few that were ideal for what I wanted. In Camera RAW, I open two or three images that I love. Here I zoom in and see what I like best from them. I check out clarity, sharpness, highlights and shadows. What I'm looking for in RAW (RAW files are your digital negatives) can vary depending on each file. While in Camera RAW I do some basic adjustments. I usually only work on exposure, white balance, and maybe one or two others. The rest is done in Photoshop. Amazing as it may seem, I did not do a lot of post processing this image. Over in photoshop I did some cropping, curves and some light high pass filter, and that was about it. I will get into specifics of those techniques in later posts.

And that's about it for the mysterious water drop photography. I'm sure for beginners this may have been a lot of info to digest, but not to worry, Light is here for you! As for turning you kitchen into a makeshift studio that will undoubtedly make any spouse want to commit REDRUM, I cannot help. That is to be done at you're own risk!

Okay shooters, I have to run for now, and when I come back, well, who knows what may happen before then. See you soon!