The Digital Photo Guy

Too Cute for Words

by on Feb.19, 2015, under Articles, gear, Lightroom, Monday Morning Tips, Photo Editing

Alpacas and an Austrian Chicken

A member of the Photography Group invited us to her ranch to photograph baby alpacas and other critters. There were alpacas, a llama, Austrian chickens, horses, a mustang and a donkey, a veritable menagerie. The alpacas were the cutest critters I’ve seen.

alpacas-104-2   alpacas-101-2   alpacas-102-2   alpacas-103-2   alpacas-105-2   alpacas-106-2   alpacas-107-2

I used a Canon 5D MkII with a 24-105/4L IS, my go-to combo. I also added the Canon 580EX II in HSS mode for some fill light. The alpaca fur sucked in light and wouldn’t reflect anything back so I had to crank up the intensity to get the desired levels. I love the catchlights in their eyes. They’re curious but not overly friendly (unless you have treats) so it’s difficult to photograph them in a good pose. All photos have been cropped, adjusted levels & white balance, sharpened and resized/compressed in LR4.

Tip – For animal photos, I found I can reduce Lightroom clarity by -15 to -25 and increase sharpening to 65-75 and radius to 1.2 to compensate. Reducing clarity further blurs the background and I make up for it by increasing sharpening/radius. I finish by edge masking all except the eyes.

The first photo, a 3 month old baby girl is my favorite although the others are cute in their own ways. The chicken’s feathers were beautiful in the light. The flash added some extra sheen. A fun shoot.

Dragging the Shutter & 2nd Curtain Sync

As promised, here’s a primer on event photography in dimly lit venues with people are milling about or, worst case, dancing and cavorting. Let’s break down the situations to those where you just want more light on the background and those where motion is directional, e.g. conga line.

Since there are, at least, a gazillion articles online about dragging the shutter or 2nd curtain sync, I’m not going to regurgitate info that’s so readily available. Instead, I’ll give a short, concise overview and an explanation of when and why one would use these techniques.

Dragging the shutter, also called Slow Shutter Sync, is when a shutter speed is selected that allows more of the background ambient light to be captured. In a typical flash image, the camera measures the amount of light being reflected back from the subject and cuts off the light when enough light has been recorded. This results in a well exposed subject emerging out of a “black hole” of a background. By slowing down the shutter, the sensor has time to record more of the background. Here’s an example.

drag_the_shutter-102   drag_the_shutter-101

On the left, Tina is reasonably well exposed but the background resembles a dark cave. In the right photo more of the background is exposed by dragging the shutter (keeping it open longer) while the flash exposes Tina. Exposing the background adds context to the photo.

In the spirit of full disclosure, this is not a true photo where I dragged the shutter. The effect was simulated in Lightroom but the end results are the same.

Second curtain sync delays the flash until just before the shutter closes. Normally, the flash fires as soon as the shutter opens. If my shutter speed is 1/60 to 1/200 second like many flash exposures, there’s no problem because the model doesn’t have time to react. However, when dragging the shutter at 1/2 sec or longer, the model might move as soon as the flash is seen. That can result in a blurred image. By using 2nd curtain sync, the model doesn’t see the flash until the shutter is ready to close.

Second curtain has an other useful applications. When capturing light trails such as the headlights of a car at night or a conga line at a party, it’s important to show the correct direction of movement.

First curtain   Second curtain

These aren’t particularly good photos but they get the idea across. The first photo uses 1st curtain sync otherwise known as “normal” flash sync. The flash fires as soon as the shutter is released. Note how the headlights make the car appear to be moving backwards. The second is with 2nd curtain sync. This photo shows shows the car moving forward. Also, note how the cars are relatively sharp when the flash fires. Flash tends to “freeze” movement. This isn’t a difficult experiment so go outside and try it. It works best when both the camera and flash are in Manual Mode.

I know this article isn’t as clear and concise as it should be so, as always, use the Comments box to post any questions and I’ll try to make it more understandable.

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