Next Blog Post: Sunday the 27th

Hi everybody!

If you’re missing the latest blog post from last Sunday – sorry for that.
There will be an extracurricular post on Sunday the 27th.

But I still want to give you some photo input.
I found that fantastic page on the Internet which deals with the past and that is pretty cool to refresh your memories or to make a time journey:

DEAR PHOTOGRAPH

Have fun and a great and successful week!
See you next Sunday!

Bye!

Chris


Shooting Car Interiors – In An Improvised Studio

Hi and welcome to this blog post about how to shoot a commercial-like car interior photo in an improvised studio.

! Before I will come to the topic, I want to note that I will publish blog posts in a regular basis from now on – every 1st and 3rd Sunday of a month.

Okay, lets start.

A few month ago, I made my first try on car photography in a more professional and commercial-like way.
Except that I love to drive cars and think that tuning them discreetly is necessary I’m not a real car fan. However, my interest on this field of photography grew because of my ambition to shoot portraits of people in a context to their interests. I started with my grandpa and his 1956 BMW motorcycle and when my cousin Anna-Lena will get her drivers license I also want to take a photo of her and her first car etc. I don’t just want to take an usual photo but something special. To me that “something special” is a commercial-like looking image – shot with professional techniques and camera systems to get high-quality. That’s my approach in all fields of photography that I’m active in. I just love that commercial look and the high-quality.

After I shot an Audi A4 from outside a few months ago, I wanted to take an interior shot this time. Therefor I used a 5er BMW.

At the Audi shoot I recognized that I would need a much bigger white surface to bounce off the flash to flood the car with 5000K warm light.
For the interior shot I built an improvised studio in the garage. The garage was renovated a few years ago and is shiny white now. Because I only wanted to shoot the cockpit of the BMW I would only need three white walls that surround it. I hung up a white plastic blanket to hide the work bench and to have also a plain white surface in front of the car.


Finally, I had three white walls to bounce off the flash to illuminate the car interior with diffuse light.
The wrinkles on the blanket don’t matter because the flash will lighten it up so strong that you won’t see any of the wrinkles in the final image.
Then I drove in the car and began to mount the Nikon Speedlights. I mounted one Speedlight on every roof rail and adjusted it so that its light would bounce off the ceiling and wall. A third Speedlight I just set in the middle of the car roof – it would illuminate the ceiling and blanket in front of the car. Finally, the cockpit would be illuminated from all three sides by a diffuse light.


In the next step, I set up the camera inside the car on the back seat. To have more working space I expanded the trunk by turning down the back seats.
I used a small tripod and arranged it in the right position – in the middle of the car.
To control the Speedlights I used the Nikon SB-800 Commander and set them to manual power. The Speedlights on the left and right were set to group A and the one in the middle to group B – all with an power output of 1/1 and zoomed to 14mm to spread the light as much as possible to flood the cockpit with soft 5000K warm light.
My Nikon D3 was also set to manual mode and I used a Tamron 10-24mm/4.5-5.6 lens.


I thought it would take a bit more of lighting arrangement but right after the second shot the whole shoot was done. Here’s the result:


Very commercial-like.
The white windows an mirrors are easy to select with the Photoshop “Magic Wand Tool” to insert a scenery or whatever.

I gave it a try and inserted the Skyline of Frankfurt am Main, Germany.


However, the next time I will create a 100% realistic car interior image without photoshopping the windows and mirrors …
So, maybe you want to turn your garage into a car studio now, too … Have fun!

Bye!
Chris


Going Commercial

Hi everybody and welcome to this short posting!

I just wanted to give you another tip: If you are interested in commercial photography and you want to go deeper into it maybe Computer Generated Imagery (CGI) is what you have been looking for. Well, today commercial photography becomes more and more post-processing and computer. So, CGI could be the next step to a still more computer based photography.

If you are a student, Autodesk Software offers you a wide product range of their professional software for free! That’s pretty cool. I love these services. Also Microsoft offers this through its Microsoft Developer Network Academic Alliance (MSDN AA).
Just join the Autodesk Education Community. Autodesk will check your data because you need to be a student and enrolled.

For professional CGI use Autodesk 3ds Max.

Bye!
Chris


Shooting Live Music

Hi everybody and welcome to this blog post!

Last Saturday was the X-th school festival of the ASS secondary school. At Eaze, a young modern hard-rock band that I met in 2008, hired me to cover their gig.
I shot them the first time in early 2008 at a music contest for the local newspaper. After my photos were published, I received an e-mail of their manager – he told me that the band saw my images in the newspaper and that they would love them. Finally, he asked me if I want to cover the band’s upcoming shows. I accepted. That was the beginning with At Eaze.
I covered many of their shows since 2008. Now, after three and a half years I’m recognizing that these musical kids I shot in 2008 became young adults who are applying for A-level and run a great band that published its first album. To me this is a fascinating process. The whole coverage of their gigs over the years does show an evolution – a change from kids to young adults. Although they had several drummers and members over the years the band never broke up. Its core was always formed by Laura and Kevin (right).

At Eaze 2008

After I shot them the last time in October 2010 they hired me again on Saturday.

Well, back to the topic. Shooting live music is a hard business. You have to fight against very low-light conditions, different light quality, colored light, blinking light, varying lights/light intensity/light colors, fast motion, loud music etc. You also have to cover the best moments during the first three songs (professional bands) or the whole show (amateur bands).
When I started  doing concert photography I thought technical correctness would be the point but it isn’t. It’s just a part of a greater whole. As always: The most important thing is to capture the moment. It doesn’t matter if there’s a bit of motion blur as long as if you have captured the special moment.

There are many types of shooting styles for concert photography and I prefer a clean one. That means that I want a clean image that’s technically perfect in terms of light, noise, motion blur and color. When I’m using effects like motion blur I’m using them purposely. Motion blur only makes sense if you’re using a flash. Because only the flash allows you to stop the action and to create a sharp image followed by motion blur. Without a flash the whole scene is blurred and hard to identify.

But using flash isn’t always allowed. At professional concerts for example flash usually isn’t allowed. There is an advice – or even rule – that every security guard gives you before you enter the photographer’s pit: „Three songs, no flash!“
At an amateur gig you would have to ask the band before you’re going to use flash. The problem is that there are so many photographers who don’t understand the correct use of a flash. They’re disturbing bands by shooting the flash directly at full power and blinding the artists on stage. Therefore it’s intelligible that many bands don’t like flash.

Is there a less noticeable way to use flash at concerts? Yes, I think so.


Step one:
Prepare the camera for available light conditions

In terms of a clean image I need a high ISO that causes an acceptable noise. It depends on the camera you’re using how extreme the noise will be at high ISO. I’m using a Nikon D3 and my limit is ISO 3200. After I set the ISO I proceed with the f-stop and shutter speed settings. The f-stop should always be at its lowest, e. g. f2.8. Finally, I have one variable left that I can change – the shutter speed. Here I’m using the following approximate rule:

Max. shutter speed that doesn’t cause blur = reciprocal of (1/focal length in mm)

That means that if I’m using a 50mm lens, I need a minimum shutter speed of 1/50s (on an FX sensor camera) to prevent blur that’s caused by shaking while holding the camera. If I cannot realize this shutter speed because it’s too dark, I have to use a monopod or a higher ISO. Otherwise I just raise the shutter speed.
For concerts I set the camera always to manual mode and matrix metering. I also make some test shots to find the correct exposure. It’s very easy if there’s just one parameter to adjust especially when the light intensity is varying. Mostly I’m working in a range around 1/60s and 1/250s.


Step two:
Adding flash

The goal is to combine the ambient light and the flash light in a way that finally no one will recognize that you used a flash.
To get started I would recommend to set the flash on the lowest power level available. Use a dome diffuser and let the light bounce off the ceiling (or a similar white surface like a bouncer card – whatever). Use the available light camera setting and make some test shots to adjust the flash.
If the flash power is too low don’t raise it too much! It’s better to blend in more available light than pushing the flash power. Remember: You don’t want to blind or disturb the band. If the flash is too bright, use a higher f-stop.
Always remember:

The shutter speed adjusts the intensity of the available light; the f-stop adjusts the intensity of the flash.

The goal is to find the correct mix of available light and flash light. Finally, no one should recognize that you are using a flash or that you have used a flash.

When you’re using a flash some color shifting may appear. That’s because the flash produces a color temperature of 5000K which is very similar to daylight, but the spotlights maybe produce a warmer light of 5000K plus. The solution for this is a warming gel that warms the flash light so that it will fit more to the color temperature of the spotlights.

Examples:

#1 Reveal the Drummer
Here is an example where I used a flash to reveal the drummer from darkness. It’s a well known problem that drummers mostly sink in darkness, especially at amateur concerts. That’s also the reason why many photographers don’t shoot the drummer of a band.
In this image I mounted a flash on a mike stand in front of the drummer. It looks like a white spotlight illuminates him but actually it’s a flash that reveals him from darkness.


#2 Reveal the Audience
Another problem is that the audience often sinks in darkness, too. But the audience is an important factor because it shows emotion and gives the viewer a feedback of how good the band played and how it influenced the audience. Finally, a happy audience is a quality indicator for a band. So reveal it from darkness to show how good the band is on stage.


Conclusion:
It’s possible to shoot concerts with flash. The advantages are that it can reveal important people from darkness like the drummer and the audience. It also helps to clean the noise of high ISO and to influence the light quality and light color. Disturbing the band with flash is an absolutely no go! Get familiar with the correct use of your flash and your camera. Blend the flash and available light in a way that no one recognizes the flash – neither during the gig nor after the gig when viewing the images.
If a band forbids the use of a flash accept it and draw on your skills and equipment to shoot in available light situations. Good luck!

Bye!
Chris


Mushroom Season

Hi everybody,

when I made a walk through the woods last week I recognized some mushrooms and thought: “Well, seems like it’s mushroom season again.” And I remembered my mushroom series from last fall.

I don’t know, but sometimes you forget nice things that you did some time ago. Anyway, fall stands for mushrooms, colored leaves, wind, rain, last warm sun rays etc. So, I will shoot some fall scenes during the upcoming months. Especially another mushroom series for editorial use.
Finally it’s a small project for fall.

I think it’s important to have some kind of projects that help you to expand your skills in a motivating manner. Of course, you can shoot this and that circadian and have adapted lots of techniques to a lot of scenes that results in a mixed portfolio at the end of the day. On the other hand working on a project helps to concentrate skills and techniques on a specific topic. Just try to create a common theme.

Bye!
Chris

 


Car Shoot

Hi there,

My cousin Anna will get her drivers license soon and she will also get a car – the Mini Cooper of her mother. Well, I want to shoot her with her first car. Something like an Need For Speed Underground thing or so. However, the problem is: I don’t know anything about lighting cars or car scenes. So, this is a good example for my slogan: “Striving for the better picture everyday.”
I drove into the field this evening and tried to shoot my own car. Because I don’t know anything about shooting cars, I surfed on websites of professional car commercial photographers to get an imagination about angle, setup, lighting etc. Everyone knows that typical car ads in magazines or on billboards etc. Pretty cool stuff, isn’t it? Dramatic sky, motion, clean car, great lighting etc. Awesome shots.

So, I used my whole knowledge about lighting from sports and portraiture and just gave it a try.

All I know was, that I need very soft light and that it must come from an angle that doesn’t cause reflections on the car. Therefor I would have to spread and soften the light as much as possible but not too much so that I would still have a high quality of light. Phew! Hard conditions. Anyway, I tried it with a diffuser. It was much too small but I’ll use a larger one the next time.
Because one light source is almost not enough to light the car effectively I would need a bunch of them. Another option would be to wait for less available light so a few flashes would spend enough light (quality). Well, there a many other ways. Here I used three flashes only. Another thing is that it’s better not to light the whole car but generate some shadows to create an interesting image with drama etc. Here I lit the whole car so that there are no contours and shadows but just a white dull surface.

Finally, my session ended in results like the following image. I think I’m on a good way but not on the royal road. Maybe there is really no way around Photoshop?! I don’t think so …

If you have any tips – let me know!
If you have a cool car that you want to be shot – also let me know!
Thanks!

Bye!
Chris


See you next year, guys!

Well, Thursday was my last morning at the reservoir. I arrived at 5.00 a.m. and tried a new position on the other side of the waters under bushes. I built the hide into the bushes and hung a camouflage net in front of it and put the lens through. I was sure that this would be a great position to shoot close-up images. Finally, I cannot confirm that because there were no Osprey action that day. 8.55 a.m. was a time where they surely appeared the days before but not on Thursday. I waited until 10.30 a.m. than I went home.

I’m pretty sure that they already moved to Africa on Wednesday. Normally Ospreys stay in Germany until August. So, I will have to wait for next year. Around March 2012 they will come back and I will be there – that’s for sure. 🙂

These are last impressions from the reservoir:

Therewith the 24h Osprey Project is closed.

See you next time when I will tell you something about one of my other projects!

Bye!
Chris