Jul 25, 2011

Ten tips for better photos.

(for beginners)

I get asked once in a while for beginner tips, so here's my advice...
  1. 90% of the reason to trade up to an SLR (that you can afford) is eliminating shutter lag. If you have kids, it will save you from an aneurysm.
  2. A kit lens is all you need, but consider buying a prime lens like the 50mm f/1.8. It's cheap and great for low-light and nice bokeh.
  3. Feel free to go auto-everything for a little while, the embrace Aperture Priority (with +/- compensation).
  4. Fill the frame with your main subject, but don't "bullseye" a person's face. 
  5. When in doubt... use the rule of thirds for composition. 
  6. If you can afford it, get Lightroom. It fixes lots of photos fast and is great for archiving.
  7. You can find some great shooting and editing tips on YouTube. There's tons of idiots out there, so find someone who isn't a knob and stick with them.
  8. Look at lots of photos for inspiration—especially bad ones.
  9. The more often you shoot, the more mistakes you will make. That's a good thing.
  10. Ask for help and constructive criticism from people who's opinion you care about. Ignore everybody else.

P.S. You want to take photos of your cat? Take photos of your cat!

    Jul 18, 2011

    Priceless things I learned from a Groupon photographer...

    There are no bad photos. Only funny stories.
    Update (Feb 13, 2012): I thought long and hard about including the photos, and originally thought it would be a bad idea, but... what the hell. They're at the bottom...You be the judge.

     
    On a whim As a carefully thought-out experiment, I decided to hire a family photographer through one of those coupon sites. I had received an email from TeamBuy for the day's bargain—a cheap portrait session. And it just so happened that my wife had been bugging me for a new family pic, so I decided to check it out.

    (The truth is, I wanted just one batch of family photos that didn't involve me running back and forth to my tripod like an NFL linesman. Also, I generally prefer shallow focus, and have had less than stellar luck with remotes and timers at f/2.)

    His portfolio looked good, so I called him. Nice guy. Sounded professional, too.

    So I pulled the trigger and booked a date and a location in Etobicoke.

    With two months to wait, I started looking forward to seeing things from the other side of the lens... walking in a client's shoes, so that I might improve my own practices. Hell, if it worked out, I might just work on my own Groupon!

    And if the photos sucked? No harm done. I often find bad photography more instructional than good photography (in the same way that crappy TIFF films used to inspire me when I was in film school.)

    [Spoiler alert: anyone who discounts a portrait session from $800 to $79 is doing so for a good reason.]

    To make a long story short, the photos were—I'm going to be charitable here—usable. The lessons I learned, however, were pure gold.

    Ten-point memo to all photogs, from the perspective of a client:
    1. Communicate. I don't care how busy you are, get back to me within a day when I call or email you.
    2. Bring all the gear you'll need. (Note: I did not say, "Bring all your gear".) If you have to run back to the car for fifteen minutes, to retrieve yet another trunk of shit, you've given me solid reason to hate you.
    3. Don't go all Strobist for the sake of going Strobist. If you have good available light on a casual shoot, run with it.
    4. Don't make me wait twenty minutes between setups while you mess with your kit. Most families have a short posing window.
    5. For the love of Pete, do not make me squint into the sun.
    6. Direct the shoot. Don't count on me having a shot list or a bunch of posing ideas. The ball's in your court, McEnroe.
    7. When the shoot's over, a quick email thanking me for my business is probably a good idea. It takes 20 seconds.
    8. Do not make me chase you for my proofs.
    9. If your massive discount does not entitle me to a beautified image, that's totally cool; just keep in mind that this muddy, unprocessed snapshot now represents your best work.
    10. Word of mouth works two ways.
    So, there you go. 

    You get what you pay for? Yep. Will I be doing a Groupon in the future? Not a chance. Will that shoot be at the very front of my mind every time I pick up a camera in front of a paying client? 

    You bet your butt. 

    P.S. Here they are...




    Jun 9, 2011

    The hack guide to street photography...

    ...or, "Things I feel compelled to shoot, that have been done to death by more talented photogs."

    • Anybody with an umbrella.
    • Homeless guy (humorous signs only, please).
    • Kid with ice cream cone.
    • Hippy on vintage bicycle.
    • Vegetables at a market.
    • Asian woman in Chinatown (especially one who seems to hate you).
    • Any graffiti.
    • Construction guy with hardhat and cigarette.
    • Really, really old white guy (particularly awesome, since they can't chase and beat you).
    • Colourful door in otherwise dreary neighbourhood.
    • Small dog being carried in bike basket.

    Note: the depth of a street photo is doubled by converting to black & white, and quadrupled by the use of actual film. Employing an f/1.2 lens (or lower) will result in weapons-grade art.

    Jun 8, 2011

    Whatever it takes.


    I gave out a business card the other day which had the above image on it. (My stash of cards is comprised of 50 different shots.) I got a nice complement, and the guy asked how I took it. I could have told him, but I didn't.

    I rented a limo, so I could shoot out the sunroof while the driver cruised around downtown. I found the perfect angle on University Ave., so he parked for a minute while I spot-metered the neon sign on top of the Sheraton, I compensated one-third stop under, and we started circling the block. The fifth time around, I got a nice shot just as a car full of frat boys passed us on the left.

    Actually that's not quite true, The camera was clamped on my Hyundai's roof rack, automatically shooting a frame every two seconds, for about 45 minutes. That gave me about 1300 frames to choose from... And all I had to do was drive around and listen to Miles Davis.

    (Admittedly, I shot this sequence for a time lapse video, but I noticed this particular frame in After Effects. Perfect. I'll take it.)

    So, who cares how a photo is shot, anyway?

    Well, seemingly everybody, if you read enough. 'Spray and pray', for example, gets a pretty bad rap from a lot of photogs. Admittedly, it's no way to learn the craft, but every now and then you gotta gun that thing and hope for the best. Can you fix it in Lightroom? Probably.

    Jay Maisel brackets his street photos in three-shot bursts, so at least one is correctly exposed. Great idea. I'm guessing if the perfect frame happens to be one that isn't 'correctly' exposed, he just picks it anyway. 'Spray and pray'? Yeah, I guess... If that's what it takes.

    Say you're shooting a wedding. What are you going to do when the groom leans in for the kiss... wait for the exact, perfect moment and snipe one? Sure, if that's the way you roll. But I'll be the guy on full-auto, with a fast shutter speed, even if it means my ISO is jacked up to the moon. That way I can freeze the moment... whenever that happens. I'll save contemplation for the other, less-fleeting opportunities. 

    "Don't do it that way!"

    Do you notice people like to say don't a lot—especially online? "Don't go over 3200. Don't use zooms. Don't look at your LCD. Don't use tripods." There's a whole whack of don't at Ken Rockwell's site and Luminous Landscape. Do you take it seriously?

    Don't.


    *****

    On a related note...

    About six weeks ago, I mixed together a couple hundred seed bombs for fun. (A seed bomb is a dried-out ball of clay, flower seeds and compost. They are dropped mercilessly on inaccesible, unsightly property; with the intent to beautify.) I had never made any before, and I have no idea if I did it right, but the kids and I chucked these things all over a fenced-off vacant lot near our house in Etobicoke.

    Talk about spray and pray. We weren't doing it the 'right' way, we couldn't stay for long, and we weren't even allowed there.

    Like the hundreds of photos taken on a wedding shoot, the majority of those flowers won't take, but I desperately hope some of them do... I want my kids to see that we make our own magic, our own beauty. That we do whatever it takes.

    Because if even one person looks in at that miserable lot and says to themselves, "I wonder who the heck snuck in there and planted all those amazing flowers," then it was worth it.

    And... with any luck, I can set up my tripod some time in August and take a very deliberate set of photos.

    Here's hoping.

    Jun 1, 2011

    Ah-ha Moments, Vol. 3


    INT: our apartment, early evening, circa 2001.

    Me (watching CNN news-crawl): Wow! Looks like L.A. is in for a major hurricane tomorrow.

    Michelle (glances at screen): "LA" means Louisiana, doofus.

    Me: Ah-ha.

    (end scene)

    May 27, 2011

    Universal translator: Photographer's edition



    I usually want to choke someone when I hear the following: poseur lingo, weapons-grade gear lust, and outright lies... but of course, I protest too much.



    Volume 1: Photographer-to-photographer translation


    "Nice! What lens did you shoot that with?"
    ("You add bokeh in Photoshop, don't you, you prick.")

    "What do you think of my portfolio?"
    ("My site sucks. Care to confirm that?")

    "Yeah, I only use prime lenses. There's no comparison."
    ("I desperately want a 70-200 VRII, but can't afford it.")

    "Nikon (Canon) is clearly superior to Canon (Nikon)"
    ("I couldn't tell the difference between a Lomo and a Hasselblad.")

    "You can't beat Pocket Wizards for dependability."
    ("I can't believe I actually dropped $400 on these things.")

    "I prefer shooting available light."
    ("There's no way I'm dropping $400 on Pocket Wizards.")
     
    "My f/1.2 is just in a whole other league from the f/1.4—you can't go back."
    ("Dammit, I should have bought a Smart Car instead.")

    "I read Esquire for the photography."
    ("Did you know Megan Fox has a tattoo underneath her tongue?")
     
    "I watch America's Next Top Model if my wife puts it on, but it's just for the photo shoots."
    ("Omigod, Molly got totally screwed. What were they thinking!")

    "I always nail it in-camera. I don't like to use much post."
    ("Clarity? 85... Vibrance? 60... Vignetting? all the way, then back it off a notch.")

    "... and then I used twenty-five SB-900s to fill in the USS Nimitz in the background."
    ("Hi, my name's Joe. It's nice to meet you.")

    May 19, 2011

    One for the books.



    I have a habit of forgetting stuff, so the blog is a nice way for me to catalog stories that I think are worth preserving... provided I remember to do so.

    This story has nothing to do with anything, but I absolutely can't bear the thought of ever forgetting it.
    JS


    INT.   No Frills  -- SUMMER -- A fairly dead Saturday afternoon.

    I am at the checkout, glancing at tabloid covers, while the seventeen-year-old cashier — let's call her Betsy — is turned away from me, chatting with her friend who's at the helm of cash 3. I'm a little spaced out, and not in a big hurry, so I let them gossip about their Saturday night plans.

    While deliberately trying not to stare at the cleavage on the cover of Us magazine, I catch a surprising fact...

    "She's such a slut."

    Say what? I look up and notice that Betsy is now ringing in my groceries.

    "Who's a slut?" I inquire enthusiastically; hoping to get the low-down on Ms. Lopez, Aniston, or whoever the waif-du-jour is.

    Suddenly uncomfortable, Betsy glances back at her friend, and in a sheepish voice says...

    "Um... Stacey."


    No further questions, your honour.

    May 18, 2011

    Ah-ha moments, Vol. 2


    I was seventeen. I had been shooting on an SLR for about a year (a Praktica MTL-3, if you're curious). It was a perfect starter—from K-Mart!—that was equipped with a 50mm prime.

    I think it was a 1.8, but whatever its maximum aperture, that's all I shot at. Not because I was addicted to shallow DOF or anything, but because—unbeknownst to me—that was the only position at which the iris rested.

    Totally ignorant, I shot this way for about a year; always twisting the aperture ring back and forth, trying to understand why the light-meter never responded to my input. It was like flicking that light switch in the hall that does nothing.

    (I think I assumed that the meter was broken, or that in photography, aperture had way less effect on exposure than I was led to believe. What did I know? Only one of my friends had an SLR, and I sure as hell wasn't going to reveal my colossal stupidity to him.)

    Anyway, I got some nice images, and just rolled with it.

    I started reading a lot more about photography, and one day said to myself, "Seriously, what the &^%$?" I unscrewed the lens with the tip of a steak knife, and tried to figure out what was going on in there. Well, something had obviously come loose, and with zero tool skills to rely on, I rubber-cemented the iris leaves to the most likely thingamabob.

    Jesus wept.

    Anyway, as you may have guessed, that fixed nothing, but it somehow didn't hurt the lens, either. I kept shooting, and moved on to a Chinon CE-4 in 1988, where I re-discovered the magical world of actual iris adjustment.


    Ah-ha!


    Epilogue: the Practica was stolen—along with my Nikon 601 and a bunch of other gear—a few years ago, and no doubt, some guy out there is wondering who the f*ck rubber-cemented his 50 mill.

    Choke on it, sucka!

    May 17, 2011

    Tattoo You


    Tattoo You, originally uploaded by jeremysalejr.
    The nicest tough guy an art student could ever meet.

    May 16, 2011

    How to win a juried art show.

    Now THAT is art.

    I co-juried an art show on Saturday, and man... talk about a learning experience. I should have paid them.

    My first thought upon reviewing the entries was immediate: "I am so glad I am not competing with these guys." Holy smokes, what a lot of talent our neighbourhood has.

    There was also a pleasing assortment of, how shall I put this... not so great art on display.  But you know what? That, too, was impressive. You know why?

    They got off their asses and submitted.


    So here's what I learned after sifting through roughly 165 entries. If you disagree, please help yourself:

    • Photography has to be really, really good to beat classic media. A photo is relatively easy to take, so there has to be evidence of thought, toil, and a mastery of the craft. No blown highlights, no sharpening edges within an inch of their life and no hack filters. As a photographer, I found it easy to dismiss any photo which was merely "good".
    • Bigger is better. If your art kicks some ass, it might as well wear a big boot. As a juror, it's harder to be dismissive of a large work, because you're forced to take it seriously. (Also, they're harder to move back to the loading dock.) Note: big and crappy is just crappy.
    • Do something difficult. A statue made from the melted-down syringes of your bout with tuberculosis in Cambodia is way more interesting than any watercolour. It shows imagination, and implies depth of character.
    • If you're selling it, price it realistically. Lowballing shows that you're insecure, ridiculously high shows you're not taking it seriously. This effects its evaluation.
    • For the love of Godard, don't try to look sophisticated if you aren't. You like bullfighters on velvet, paint bullfighters on velvet.
    • Choose a political message at your own risk. We're not all hippies, you know.
    • Pick a colour palette, Rainbow Brite. And stick to it.
    • Smudged paint? Ripped print? Like a typo on a resume, that's insta-trash.
    • Pony up for good framing and mattes. Your Zellers frame looks like a Zellers frame.
    • If your signature looks like it was made by Stephen Hawking, get someone else to do it. (This is one of my big weaknesses, by the way—my signature hasn't changed since grade 3.)
    • People know restaurant art when they see it. So do jurors.
    • Keep your style consistent. If you submit a photo-realistic landscape plus a Modigliani rip-off homage, we can't label you. Hmm... maybe that's not a bad thing.
    • Trust your gut, but be able to defend your decisions. Don't try to make a "contest winner", because it shows. Make what you're good at, and don't lie to your audience.
    • You know why nudity works? Because jurors don't want to look like prudes.
    • Above all other advice... Submit more than one entry! It is very difficult for a jury to dismiss two (or three) pieces from the same artist. In my case, I tended to favour the stronger of two good submissions and leave it at that. Fair? Not really.


    I could tell—we all could tell—which pieces were taken seriously during their creation and which weren't; which were slapped together, which were lovingly crafted, and which were over-thought, over-worked, and over-brushed.

    I'm so glad I got the chance to do this. Being on the 'other side' is a terrific reality-check for evaluating the merit of your own art. 

    And, apparently, I still have a lot of work to do.

    May 4, 2011

    From your cold, dead hands...

     Many photobloggers love to hate the following:

    • tilt-shift and faux tilt-shift
    • f/1.4 and f/1.2 lenses
    • ringlight
    • Lighroom/Photoshop vignetting
    • texture overlays
    • the clarity slider
    • HDR
    You know what? Who cares. If that's your bag, use it until the wheels come off. Personally, I love all of those things (minus most HDR.)


    Here's the bottom line: Client trumps blogger. End of story. Your client is the right bower, her husband is the left bower. You are the ace.

    That blogger who hates everything? He's an off-suit nine on a good day.

    May 2, 2011

    Funny joke from an otherwise unremarkable comedian, Vol. 2


    "If Sunny D is so fucking good, why is it always in the back of the fridge?"

    -unknown amateur, Laugh Resort, circa 2003

    Funny joke from an otherwise unremarkable comedian, Vol. 1


    "So I'm in HMV the other day, and you know those stations where you can listen to whatever CD you want? I see this guy there, and he's listening to John Tesh (pause) Sorry, that's the joke."

    Bravo, sir.

    I can't, for the life of me, remember who said this; but he was an amateur around the same time I was attempting to be funny at The Laugh Resort in Toronto. (I can guarantee that I remember more jokes of his than he can of mine.)

    Apr 12, 2011

    Flashbus: The good and the bad.

    Not since DeNiro and Pacino...
    Let's cut right to it. The coolest thing I learned at the Flashbus tour in Buffalo last Sunday was how David Hobby lit this photo. (I'm not sure that I'm allowed to show his work here, so I'll err on the side of caution.)

    Answer: he threw some fishing line over a rafter, tied it to a $6 Japanese lantern globe, and stuffed an SB-800 into the globe. Heave ho. Don't know about the sync, but I'm guessing he avoided changing power locally.

    Very cool.

    David Hobby and Joe McNally were both great. They were accessible and fun, and knew their audience well. Ostensibly it was a battle between Manual and TTL flash, but it was really just an exploration of what to use and when to use it.

    What I liked...

    1. They were funny. I'll go to a convention on Post-It adhesive if the guy can lay down a few zingers.
    2. They made mistakes. I love to see that pros can screw up, too. Who cares?
    3. There was good swag.
    4. Hobby: 99% of the world couldn't care less about "catch lights" or (gasp!) bokeh. Damn. He's right.
    5. Watching McNally evolve a snapshot into a magazine-worthy double-truck.
    6. Photoshop? As Mr. Hobby said, "Kelby's class is down the hall."
    7. I somehow defied the odds and bought absolutely nothing from Adorama's drool-table.
    What I didn't like...
    1. Too many questions allowed in medias res. This broke the flow of many good tutorials.
    2. Attendees who wasted time with 'user-manual' queries that could be looked up on an iPhone.
    3. My crap seat near the back. (Re: Snoozers v. Losers)
    4. The huge, mucous-ridden guy behind me, who hacked out 190 dB cackles every time an in-joke was cracked. (He was beside the two guys who whispered to each other for, umm... five hours.)
    5. The crappy burritos at the "Mexican" place down the street. ¡Ay, caramba! Where were the wings?
    (You'll notice that most of the above does not fall on the shoulders of McNally and Hobby.)


    There was nothing to actually shoot, but no one wanted to be caught empty-handed. I took a grand total of zero photos, unlike the itchy shutter-fingers who used their D3s (avec 70-200mm VR, natch) to capture the ephemeral beauty of... the slide presentation.

    Yep.

    Slide. Chickchickchick. Next slide. Chickchickchick. Same slide with some some notes on it. Chickidachickidachickidachick. It was a little embarrassing. Strike that. It was a lot embarrassing.

    If you were a Nikon boy, you were in good company. (The Canon guys had their revenge, though, when Joe's CLS had a bad case of "You talkin' to me?" Like I said, it's nice to see that it happens to pros, too.)

    There were lots of men in attendance—what's up with photogs and beards? A topic for another day, I suppose. Lots of Canadians. Poor Drew had a heckuva time getting footage of us in "Whoo!" mode at 10am. (I'd apologize for this, but that would just make it more Canadian, right?)

    Hobby had lots to say about his new model of monetization, too. This was refreshing and welcome. His take on it is: staying local, doing your own thing, and doing it better than the other guy. We are "swimming in technology," he reminds us. There is no reason to not be out shooting amazing photos all the time, blogging them, and carving out our own path while we connect with people on nearby journeys.

    Even with the hacking and the slide-shooters (seriously?) it was a more than worthy place to drop a Benjamin. Especially since Mr. Borden is worth more than Mr. Benjamin these days.

    One final thought... Photodude, if you must wear the hackni khaki photo vest, could you a least drag it behind a car or something, and make it look like you get out in the field once in a while?

    Mar 25, 2011

    Why I hate (most) concert photography.

    "Hang on, everyone... eyelash. Eyelash!"

    Making fun of "Christian Metal" is like shooting loaves and fishes in a barrel (and it wouldn't exactly be Christian of me, would it?) But it occurred to me, the moment I clicked into Scott Kelby's site this morning, that I hate concert photography.

    Strike that.
    I couldn't care less about concert photography.

    [Disclaimer: I love Scott Kelby, but I am not what you'd call a music-guy, and he is. The most-recent hit in my iTunes library is My Doorbell, by The White Stripes. As far as concerts go, my ears can't handle the punishment, and strobe lights really get on my nerves.]

    But, it's actually not the photography itself that bugs me. Kelby's photos are sharp and colourful; they're composed and exposed perfectly; and they're post-processed with restraint. It's just that most of what I see is... well, the same old, same old*.

    Now, you can't exactly direct these guys in the middle of a set. A concert photographer is not only at the mercy of the stage lighting and where they are forced to shoot from, they have to do the best with whatever the band is offering.

    But seriously... I realize there are aficionados who see a unique awesomeness in every permutation of the done-to-death time-honoured Townshend / Cobain / Iggy Pop poses, but I don't. And, how 'bout this bass player? Sure hope he's being ironic.
    "You smell that, dude?"

    So can you blame the photographer? I'm definitely not a wildlife guy, but I love National Geographic. You can't change the lighting on a mountain ridge. Grizzly bears won't pose for you, no matter how much you pay them. Mind you, they don't feel compelled to windmill a salmon every time they spot a 600mm lens in the crowd, either.

    For me, checking out a concert photo is much like greeting a party guest who's brought you the spinach-dip-in-the-hollowed-out-bread. You reflexively think, "Ah, cool," but you soon remember that this once-awesome party-favourite has kinda become a culinary Rickroll.

    But here's the main reason I hate concert photography; and this is the hard part...

    It reminds me—vividly—that there are people who would say the exact same thing about my portrait and wedding shots.

    And many times they'd have a case.

    Portraiture is a field that—more than ever—demands a fresh perspective, even when the client secretly wants the same old, same old... the safe stand-bys that they see in everybody else's portfolio.

    So, memo to self: quit shooting the same old, same old. At least, quit shooting it all the time. Enjoy the freedom, take some chances. Shoot in the rain. Ask the groom to hang upside down from the swing-set. Get the bass player to fart. Whatever it takes.


    *shot #2 is actually pretty cool, if you imagine he is being taken up to the Rapture.

    Mar 22, 2011

    Manual settings, but Auto-ISO?


    I love the 135mm f/2, but it's depth-of-field is about 1 nanometer when it's wide open, plus it's pretty soft and the chromatic aberration is unforgivable. Also, I tend to blur shots with it, employing seemingly normal shutter-speeds. (Not a great combo when you're shooting action photos.)

    Basically, I want Aperture Priority with a fail-safe shutter speed.



    My solution? Set it to M, on a shutter speed of, say 1/500 at f/4. The DOF is narrow but forgiving, and it's sharp as hell. As the sun sets, I let the ISO figure itself out. No sweat.

    Originals here.

    Mar 17, 2011

    At least you have your heath.

     I once went to a Ben and Jerry's and noticed they had a flavour called Heath Bar Crunch.

    "How many people ask for Health Bar, " I asked.

    "Everyone," she replied, without looking up.


    Sure hope there's a plecebo effect in there somewhere.

    Mar 16, 2011

    The Doghouse, and how to get out.

    If you find yourself in a dank shed with a squeaky-toy, chances are you messed up with your gal. Here's my tips on how to get out.

    (As seen in Chill magazine, available wherever you buy Twist Shandy.)

    Mar 1, 2011

    Don't leave your camera unloved.


    Somewhere out there, a guy has a Ferrari in his garage. It's been there for a month—unused—while I take the bus to work. This guy has other priorities, after all.

    What a waste.

    I mean, that would be like owning a D700 plus a couple grand worth of lenses... but waiting for the next family birthday to take photos with it.

    Feb 28, 2011

    Ah-ha moments, Vol. 1


    Once, after doing amateur stand-up, I was approached by a good friend who said, "Oh man. It takes real guts to go up there and do that." I smiled and said something like, "You get used to it. It's actually pretty fun."

    It occurred to me much later that this is not something you would say to a comedian who, you know, killed. It's like someone looking at your portfolio and saying, "Wow. It must be scary at times, knowing that you're living hand-to-mouth on your photography."

    Feb 23, 2011

    Poor-man's Octa?


    Like all part-time photogs, I secretly pine for an Octabank. I understand it's a common ailment; especially for those who are prone to gear-envy.

    But cheap, they ain't. As Zack Arias put it, "It takes octa-hundred dollars out of your bank."

    But, that's what the pros use, so buying one makes you a pro... so long as you have an 85mm f/1.4 and a khaki photo vest.

    Truth is, I just wanted something big and efficient, that would give me huge wrapping light up close, and a reasonably consistent source for shooting small groups. I also wanted portable and cheapish, without hauling a gallon of Behr Ultra Pure 1050 everywhere I go.

    So here's what I tried last night... a collapsible background as a light source.


    4 out of 5 wives prefer available light.

    Nothing ground-breaking... not terribly novel. Just a big, white 4'x5' source, without resorting to bedsheets. (Not that there's anything wrong with that.)

    Plus, I already own it.

    Most confusing catch-light of the year.

    So... a couple of light-stands, a couple of SB's, and you basically have a 20 square-foot softbox—which beats my next biggest softbox by a factor of 5; limited in power only by the number of flashes you can clamp up there.

    Is it an Octa? Ah, no. But it's portable, versatile and already in my kit. The set-up shown above needs some fine-tuning—check out those hot spots!—but it seems to be a nice option for location shooting... especially if you aren't privy to white walls, bounce-goats or a Bravia's worth of hard cash.

    Verdict: even if I didn't use the collapsible all the time (mostly the gray side) I would probably be tempted to buy one just as a simple reflector.  

    Caveat: I'm pretty sure you could kiss this thing goodbye if you used it outside. You'd need $800 in sand bags just to save the light-stand.

    Jan 26, 2011

    Typo Personality

    Okay, I have always sucked at typing—"hunt and peck" would be a significant exaggeration of my acumen. Anyhoo, give it a try. I'd love to hear your numbers.
    -JS

    37 words
    Typing Speed Test

    Jan 4, 2011

    New Years Resolution: More blog posts.


    700_5565, originally uploaded by jeremysalejr.

    They'll be shorter, but they'll be more frequent... with more photos. Promise.

    -JS