Archive for September, 2016
Wow! I Can See Again!
Earlier this year, I was diagnosed with cataracts. My right eye was the worst so that was the obvious candidate for immediate surgery. Unfortunately, Mary and I were getting ready to leave for the summer and the doctor didn’t have any openings until September. Since I felt very comfortable with Dr. Patel, I opted to wait until we returned to Arizona. Surprisingly, the right eye deteriorated at an accelerated pace and by the time I got back, my right eyesight was severely compromised.
Today, 2 days after surgery, my right eye seems to have healed well and I’ve noticed an amazing difference. To show you, instead of just telling you, I prepared the photo below. The left side is what my uncorrected left eye sees. This effect uses a Photoshop Warming Filter 85 plus a small curves and desaturation adjustment. The effect is a bit exaggerated to make it easier to see but pretty close to what my uncorrected left eye sees versus my corrected right eye.
To me, the colors before surgery appear as if I had set the wrong white balance and slightly underexposed the image. There’s a slight yellow/orange cast compared to the corrected right eye.
So, if you’re of “a certain age” (code word for old,) you might want to have your eyes checked for cataracts. As you can see, editing and correcting colors can be a crapshoot with cataracts. Of course, everyone is different and every surgical procedure has risk so be sure to carefully discuss your options with your doctor.
Another Yongnuo Flash Review!
Those who have followed my blog for a while (Thank you!) have read my previous posts about Yongnuo flashes and probably wondered if I have a financial stake in the company. My glowing reviews of the YN685 Canon E-TTL compatible flashes and Yongnuo 622 triggers even embarrassed me at times because I came off like some paid shill. So far, the Yongnuo flashes (I now own three) and triggers have proven to be reliable, durable and well built.
When I needed a ring flash for macro work, I turned to the Yongnuo YN14-EX-C. At $99 from B&H, it was too good to pass up compared to the Canon MR-14EX II for $499. My first impressions are that it’s quite well built. I’ll update this post if I find the build quality is an issue. Of course, build quality is secondary to light quality so let’s first look at “real” photos.
The 1st and 3rd photos are originals of my “model” Ms Stick, as in Western Walking Stick bug common in Arizona. This pretty specimen was hanging around our back porch so I enlisted her assistance in producing this MMT (Monday Morning Tip.) I forgot to make a photo of the entire bug to give you some idea of it’s size but the head is no more than 1.5mm to 2mm across so it’s a small critter. BTW, Ms Stick was not injured in the process of making these photos. I did, however, put her in the refrigerator for 30 minutes to sedate her.
The 2nd photo is a crop of its eye. The photo was made with THIS setup. I didn’t want to “nuke” the bug so I dialed back the ring flash to 1/32 power and opened the aperture to f/2.8. It probably didn’t make a huge difference but notice the extremely shallow DoF. The 4th photo is a crop of the mandible from the 3rd image showing fine hairs.
In both images, the light was even and smooth. I didn’t get a chance to experiment too much as the bug was recovering from its cold-induced stupor and I didn’t want to stress it again. Bottom line, I think the Yongnuo YN14-EX-C ring flash is an excellent device for $99.
The flash supports both Canon E-TTL and Manual Mode. I prefer Manual (M) because it gives finer control over the lighting but when using Ratios in E-TTL, I can quickly dial in adjustment using FEC (Flash Exposure Compensation.) One offers better control while the other is more convenient. It also supports 2nd Curtain, FEB (Flash Exposure Bracketing) and has Modeling Lights.
These are photos of a US nickel coin. The 1st one is with the YN14 set to E-TTL (Auto) and ratio set to 1:1. This will probably be the last photo I ever make in E-TTL. Compare this to the 2nd photo where I set it to Manual and dialed in the power I wanted. I think you’ll agree the manual setting has better contrast.
These next two demonstrate the advantage of independent control over the left and right sides. Notice how the shadow along the rim shifts from left to right depending on which side is stronger. This helps emphasize important features on your subject.
This 3rd set was made with the Canon 100/2.8 plus all 3 Kenko extension tubes for a maximum of 68mm. The total magnification is now about 1:1.7. This set really shows the difference between a 1:1 flash and a 2:1 flash. The 1:1 is great for illustration or forensic purposes while the shadowed one is preferred for artistic purposes. The ratios can be as much as 1:8 or 8:1 depending on how much shadow you want.
Public Service Announcement!
As photographers, most of us probably use AA and AAA batteries by the boatload. Just be aware that boat may have come from China with fake poor quality, low power batteries of dubious origin. I recently fell for one of these eBay vendors.
Here’s a site that shows some ways to tell counterfeit Duracell batteries. BTW, don’t expect Duracell to be too awfully concerned if you report it. They’ll feign indignation but, bottom line, there are so many fakes out there chasing down a vendor is low on their priorities.
When I called the eBay vendor to complain, they immediately offered a refund, a sure sign that they know they’re selling fakes. They even took back the one cell I had taken apart to confirm my suspicions. The fakes are so good these days that it requires peeling off the fake plastic wrapper on a cell and comparing it to a known genuine battery.
The 1st photo below is a fake battery. Notice how the positive terminal isn’t completely crimped. This battery will readily leak and ruin whatever you use it in. Also, notice how the label is opaque on the backside while the genuine battery is clear, allowing the printing on the outside to be clearly seen from the backside. Finally, the fake label easily peeled off while the genuine label was a bear to remove. In the last photo, the fake was stamped “DURACELL” on the cathode (negative) terminal. The genuine battery had no such stamp.
Even Walmart has been fooled so don’t take any chances. If you peel off the label, the batter will still work if it’s a genuine Duracell. If it’s a fake and you call the vendor, they will most likely take them back without a hassle because they don’t want to be targeted by eBay or Amazon or Duracell. They know they’re selling cheap Chinese junk.
Quickly Convert Old Transparencies to Digital
A friend asked me to print a photo from an old Kodachrome transparency. Photographing it was easy but without a light table, getting even light behind it was a bit trickier. After thinking about it, here’s what I came up with. This is a PITA if you need to convert more than a handful of slides but it’s a whole lot cheaper than a scanner. The 3rd image is an old slide I had from Vietnam. It’s hard to imagine I was once that young. I’m the handsome stud behind the camera.
- A tripod is always recommended for this sort of exercise. You don’t need an expensive one, a cheap tabletop tripod will do as long as it’s sturdy enough to support your camera and lens.
- I used a Canon 7D because it has an APS-C sensor. In other words, the sensor is smaller than full frame so it has a narrower field of view, making it easier to fill the frame but any dSLR will do.
- The lens was a Canon 50/1.4 but the 18-55 kit lens is just fine. If you have a Canon 100/2.8 macro lens, that’s even gooder! Don’t worry about aperture because you’ll be stopping down to about f/22.
- Manual extension tubes. Don’t worry about auto focus contacts because all focusing will be manual.
- A flash with Manual Mode is necessary. If you have a newer Canon Speedlite (600EX, 580EX II or 430EX) you’re good to go. Even older models like the 550EX will work. You have to be able to set the flash power to a very low setting, e.g. 1/128. Third party flashes like a Yongnuo 685 or, even, a LumoPro will also work.
- You might have to buy a Stofen Omnibounce. Be sure to buy the correct one for your flash. Smart people can probably devise their own diffuser but for $10 the Stofen is easier for lazy people like me.
- If you have an older Canon flash that can’t be triggered remotely, e.g. wirelessly or optically, you’ll need a Canon off-camera TTL cable like THIS. The one in the above photos is a $70 Canon OC-E3. Unless you use it a lot, a cheap one will work just as well.
Setup, Focus and Exposure
- Hopefully, your flash came with a foot to hold it upright off-camera. If not, use another camera with a hot shoe to hold the flash or devise some way to hold it upright and level.
- Set the flash in Manual Mode and dial in the lowest power setting, usually 1/64 or 1/128.
- Attach the Stofen Omnibounce to the flash and tape the slide to be copied onto the front of the SO.
- Attach the off-camera TTL cable to the flash and camera with the camera on the tripod.
- If your camera has Live View Mode, that will make it easier to focus.
- Set exposure to Manual and shutter speed to about 1/100, ISO as low as possible and aperture to about f/16 or f/22.
- Unless you plan to make color corrections, set your camera to JPEG. Even RAW will have limited range of color correction so don’t expect miracles.
- Make gross focus adjustments by moving the tripod closer or further. A macro rail is useful but you might not want to buy such a specialized device unless you do lots of macros.
- Take a test shot and adjust focus and exposure as necessary. If your exposure is too bright and you can’t stop down aperture or reduce ISO anymore, add a sheet or two of tissue between the slide and Stofen.
Art Nude Photoshoot in Oregon
I met Chandra in Ashland, OR. She’s a wonderful model with a beautiful facial profile and a wild side that she hides beneath a quiet, demure exterior. I had four objectives for the shoot which was ambitious for four hours but managed to attain three. First, I wanted to add to my Bodyscape Triptychs project. I made some good images but they weren’t my best. The good ones are similar to poses with which I’ve had great results in the past. I was just too rushed to get the best from Chandra. This was entirely my fault.
Next, I wanted to focus on her face. In the same photo, Chandra can appear to be 18 years old or 28 years old. Her face is very versatile and I wanted to capture as many different angles as possible. I felt I made some great images but forgot a key element, a hair light. As long time readers know, I have an eye and hair fetish. I was so mesmerized by Chandra’s eyes and profile that I forgot to check the hair lighting.
My 3rd objective was to make photos I could use for my new interest, painting on photos. A friend is going to teach me how to paint on photos. I made a few photos of Chandra in front of a backdrop and plan to paint bathing suits on her. My first project is painting a 2-piece on her using the faint outlines of her tan lines as guidelines. Next, I’ll expand that into a 1-piece suit and, finally, an early 1900s style suit complete with bloomers. I’ll post my progress so you can giggle and laugh at my lack of talent!
The last thing I wanted were some photos of Chandra with my Canon 300/2.8L for advertising purposes. As everyone knows, a pretty girl in a product photo always attracts more eyeballs. By the time we got to the end of the shoot, we were both tired and I was rushing. The photos weren’t very good so I’ll try again later.
Because I was on the road, I didn’t have my full complement of lights and modifiers. The one piece that I really missed was my Impact Luxbanx Duo 12″ x 36″ strip light with a grid. At 36″ it’s small enough to fold into a very manageable kit but large enough to light half to three-quarters of a model’s body. Equipped with a Lumopro Double Flash Bracket Speedring, this small strip box is one of my favorite light modifiers. I won’t leave it behind in the future.
As usual, my “go to” kit was the Canon 5D MkII with the Canon 24-105/4L IS USM. That kit never fails me. All photos were processed in Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 6.
If anyone wants to shoot with Chandra, she’ll be in Arizona the first week of November. Contact me for times and rates.