Category Archives: Tech & Technique

Bring the light

Lawyer James L. Thistle, of McInnes Cooper, photographed in St. John’s, Newfoundland for the Canadian Bar Association magazine, NATIONAL.

Sometimes you need big lights and sometimes the little one are the perfect tool for the job. Small area, limited time to shoot and reaching for our Speedlights. For this shot we used a Nikon D800 camera and a couple of Nikon Speedlights controlled with the onboard CLS (Commander Mode) system. One Speedlight had a softbox and the other a grid to light the scene in the setting sun overlooking the harbourfront.

Nikon D800 – Loose in the real world.

Nikon D800

I have not been excited about a new camera since I traded a bag full of Olympus OM1’s and a bunch of lenses for a couple of new Nikon F3’s, an 80-200mm and a 20mm back in 1985. The first digital camera I considered worth buying was the Nikon D100. I had used the NC2000 and the D1’s and they were total crap. Sorry, it’s the truth and we all know it. Since the D100 I’ve only bought a couple of D2x and a D700.

I wasn’t really planning on buying a Nikon D800.  However, when I saw the specs and it coincided with a need for a new HD video setup I figured it was as good a time as any to make the credit card say ouch.

I don’t think anyone expected a 36 megapixel “full frame” monster with new expanded video features.

I got my order in to  Nikon Canada Pro Services preferred purchase program and Jeff Chevrier at Photocreative, I was able to get one of the first D800s to come into the country.

Cameras, as cool as the technology can be, are still just work tools for professional photographers. They have to have features that are useful and functional in my “real world” shooting and production environment.

With that in mind, this review of the D800 is going to be more about things that matter to working photographers in the field. It’s not a tech “test” or a spec review or, God forbid, a Nikon vs Canon discussion.

Every camera and tech geek on the web has their own version of that and you’ll find the best at RobGalbraith.com and DXO labs websites. Which, by the way, calls the D800 the best DSLR to date. Continue reading »

Panoramic portraits

Panoramic portrait. Greg Locke Photo © 2012 St. John's, Newfoundland

CLIENT: “Greg, we need you for a few days to shoot some portraits of workers at a bunch of locations”.

ME: “Great. Whats the concept?”

CLIENT: “Well, its for a corporate annual report and I’ve laid it out so the portraits are panoramas spanning the page. Nice face shot with vista for a background.”

ME: OK, do have any sketches done?”

CLIENT: “Yes, sending them over now. …but don’t sweat the composition, we can shoot the portraits and backgrounds separately and I’ll put them together in Photoshop.”

ME: “How about we shoot it right the first time and save us both some time ….and it will look much better.”

Here is one of 14 panoramic portraits we shot in five locations on work sites around the Avalon. Many thanks to the crew at Oceanex for accommodating us on this particular shoot on a very cold early morning.

For the tech curious:
For this shot we used a Nikon D700 and a SB700 Speedlight in a softbox controlled by Nikon CLS system.
ISO 200, 160th sec @ f2.8. Focal length = 50mm

 

Time, time, time…tick,tick,tick

We’ve installed our first camera in downtown St. John’s for what will be a 15 month time lapse video of the construction of a new office building on the harbour front. This little Panasonic TM-700 camcorder (an awesome little camera if anyone is looking for a small but high quality HD camcorder) is the easiest installation and gets the cushy job in a nice warm office, next to the coffee machine,  overlooking the site. It will work away at 1 frame per minute for the next 15 months.

Still fine tuning a few things but the first few days look pretty cool. Heat build up from being ON for weeks at a time will be the big test for one of my favourite little cameras.

The next cameras will be outside, down on the site and on the roof of another nearby building, as the project progresses. Weatherproof boxes will be the order of the day for these guys. Have not made a final decision on the camera / intervalometer combination yet. Talking to Nikon tech about what they might have to fit the bill.

The last time I did a major time lapse project it was with a Nikon F2 with a monstrous motordrive, intervalometer and film back with 250 foot rolls of Ektachrome motion picture film. ….and 200 metres of AC power cable.

It’s MUCH easier now.

My only worry is I’ll forget where I left the cameras!!  Check back in 15 MONTHS for the results.

Diamonds are a girls best friend

Diamonds may be a girl’s best friend but I get along fine with these fascinating, sparkly little gems too.  One of our favourite clients, Diamond Design, in St. John’s, Newfoundland, has posted  gallery of our jewellery photography on their DiamondDesignNL FaceBook page.

We have been shooting their stunning diamond rings and other jewellery for the past year ever since owner Pat Thompson asked if we would like to give it a go. Jewellery photography can be quirky with lots of details and nuance to consider that are just not present when photographing oil rigs from a helicopter! The highly reflective surfaces are the toughest issue but accurate colour rendition so you can tell the difference between silver, white gold and platinum can be a mind numbing struggle if that level of accuracy is a requirement of the shoot.

We mostly use a daylight balanced light box with build-in 360 degree lighting ,  tungsten supplemental and LED spots on goose necks for pinpoint aiming. All lights can be individually controlled allowing full on shadowless photos on white background or single beam spots on black background.  Light is bright and controllable enough to allow everything from f2.0 to f22 at 200ISO. It’s a long learning curve and every time we fire up “The Box” we discover new ways to use it. Most recently we’ve used its motorized turntable to shoot short video clips like this.

More video available on the Diamond Design TV Youtube channel.

On location with Shane Mahoney

Shane Mahoney portrait in Logy Bay

Shane Mahoney photographed in Logy Bay, Newfoundland by Greg Locke © 2012

There is nothing like the challenge of a location portrait. You have to go prepared for sun, cloud or rain, bitter cold or sweltering heat. The day we photographed famed wildlife biologist, Shane Mahoney, as a part of an ongoing documentary film project, it was bitter cold and brilliant, blinding morning sun …and the crew were prepared. No “fix it in Photoshop” for this bunch. Time spent at the computer “fixing” is time wasted and an admission you didn’t do it right the first time.

So, I’ll share some tech info.

logybay lighting setupWe knew the “mood” we wanted so we set to work. First the harsh sunlight on the subject area was knocked down with a 4ft sq diffusing scrim. Then a light reading was taken and the whole scene was underexposed in camera (Nikon D2x) with the exposure compensation control. Next we fired up a 2ooo watt 5600k HMI location light and focused it on Shane’s face using another 4ft sq diffusion scrim to soften the shadows. The light was then positioned to over compensate for the camera under exposure bringing just the subject back to proper exposure.

…and, of course, f2.8 for shallow depth of field to give some separation of the subject from the background.

While there are certainly memorable photos where a photographers great eye and reflex capture a fleeting moment or as Henri Cartier -Bresson called it, “the decisive moment”, there are other photos that are achieved by planning and executing a visual concept. It’s about making it happen. This is the world of creative and  commercial photography and film making.

 

 

Watch this space

Photo by Joe Chase

Have I ever mentioned my weakness for nice wrist watches? Today I confess,  it’s true. My name is Greg and I’m a watch addict. Not as bad as some I know but, honestly, it has more to do with disposable income.

But, the time has come for a new watch. Never mind I already have two watches, a Swiss Army field watch and a stainless steel Tissot chronograph  …but that’s not the issue. I needed a new watch.

Who needs a watch these days you may ask. We have clocks on every device in our lives. Hard to believe but I know people who DON’T WEAR a watch!  For me, in today’s digital world, there is be something comforting in a precision mechanical device that will give you time with a simple glance at your wrist. Not quite a Time Lord
but….

 It’s hard to explain, it’s a “guy-thing” I think, but best explained by the documentary film, Time Machines, by British film maker, James Wills. It’s functional jewellery, a piece of art and precision design but it’s also personal  statement.  

So what goes into making the decision which watch  ….and you can never have just one.

I’ve owned a number of watches since my childhood. Mostly cheap ones,  but a couple of “grown up”  time pieces  over the years. The first was a classic 1970’s era Seiko divers watch. Lasted 15 years before being pronounced unrepairable. Mostly due to ignorance and neglect on my part. The other was an Omega I bought in Florida. Reward after a long hard assignment. That relationship was short lived as it later got destroyed in an accident during a photo shoot on an drill rig.

This new watch would be my daily working watch. As a professional photographer working in harsh environments, remote locations and in heavy industrial sites it would have to stand up heat, cold, water, humidity and the occasional hard knock. It would also get worn mountain biking, sailing and at the beach on those rare days off.  No fashion watches need apply.

I also use the chronograph, rotating bezel and tachymetre functions on my watches on photo shoots and while travelling where coordination and timing
can be, at times, critical. Yes, all those dials and scales on a watch do something useful.

If this wasn’t enough to juggle against the budget one other item came into the decision that had not before and narrowed down the selection significantly; the strap.

I regularly work on offshore oil rigs, supply ships, construction sites, oil refineries and in under ground mines.  More and more safety protocols are now requiring
that people wearing watches must have non-conductive and soft straps of some type. A “soft” strap will break away more safely if your arm gets caught and
there is no chance of conducting current around electrical equipment.

I love retro watch styles so I first looked at leather straps but realized that leather will quickly deteriorate when constantly exposed to the elements. Swiss Army makes some beautiful retro styled watches with leather straps but it became obvious that it was back to the rubber straps of the divers watches for me.

Again I looked at the Swiss Army models but for one reason  or another I didn’t find what that perfect fit.

Another Omega was under consideration when I then found myself at the Tag Heuer display case …and I was smitten. 

Clean design, not ostentatious, tough, comfortable to wear and  with all the working features I wanted.

 Again, I had to move past all the steel bracelet models to find a rubber strap on a Formula 1 Professional. it was a “single post” watch with a bezel and no chrono functions. Beside it was a gorgeous chrono with a high visibility orange face but had a steel strap so I had to take a pass. That was until I was told that I could get a rubber strap from TAG Heuer for this model. 

That sealed the deal. I said, I do.

If your guilty pleasure is great watches be sure to check out Nathan Barnes’  watch blog at
Diamond Design.

The Newman Wine Vaults

The Newman Wine Vaults.                                                  Photographed by Greg Locke © 2011
The historic Newman Wine Vaults on Water Street in St. John’s, Newfoundland is a provincial historic site and operated by the Newfoundland Historic Trust. It’s been in the news lately when its well known ghost turned up on photos of a wedding party.While shooting this photo recently …and all alone in the vaults, One of our frames had a ghostly image appear also. The see-thru guy seemed to be lighting the candles at the back of the room. Upon closer look he looked very familiar and then we saw the camera shutter had been left open for a time exposure. Some ghosts are just illusions.

 

 

Taxi Driver …not De Niro.

George Murphy photographed on Topsail Road in St. John’s, Nfld.  by Greg Locke © 2011
Wow! Where did this month go?? We have been absorbed in a project that involves photographing a couple of hundred subjects over the next few weeks and lost all track of the outside world. Oh, yeah, a trip to the bottom of the Duck Pond mine helped the sensory deprivation too. One of those subjects turned out to be gas and oil pricing analyst, political agitator, communications guy and taxi driver …George Murphy. Check out his Gas and Oil blogLighting by photo assistant and work term student Cherie Brushett.

You might want to wander through this blog a bit while you are here. We are doing a major overhaul of our servers and software and this space/URL will vaporize into digital dust sometime in the next few weeks without warning.

Don’t worry, it will return in a much more robust blogging venue along with new photo / video galleries, archives and stock photo library on a  new Stray Light server.