Namibia – Portraits

25 11 2011

Note: Please click on theses images to view them full-size… they go a bit fuzzy when reduced down.

On my trip to Namibia there were three genres that I wanted to photograph;

  1. Ruinscapes (Kolmanskop etc.)
  2. Landscapes (Deadvlei, Wolverdens etc.)
  3. Portraits

I was particularly excited at the prospect of spending five days living with and photographing the Himba tribes of NorthWest Namibia.  While I had seen plenty of natural light photography, I really wanted to try to make different types of portraits of these photogenic people.

Inspired by the incredible personal work of Joey Lawrence, I packed my trusty Paul Buff Einstein light and my two favorite modifiers (Paul Buff 64″ Silver PLM and Westcott Apollo softbox) and decided to really try and make some stylistic environmental portraits using off camera flash techniques.

I had a ball making these images and I’m pretty happy with the way they turned out.  The beauty of the Einstein is that it throws out plenty of light and I can easily overpower the sun.  When I combine it with the ultra-efficient Parabolic Light Modifier (PLM), then I can easily get well over f64 of light out of the light setup which allows you to do some interesting environmental portraits during bright daylight.

Here's our rig in action. Jimmy (our translator) is holding the monopod.

Sometimes we used the sock over the PLM, and other times we shot with the straight silver bounce.   Most of the time we had our light on a light stand, but occasionally we put it on a monopod (as in the photo above).  While this is a 240v light, I use the Paul Buff mini vagabond to provide 240v on location… It’s incredibly small and light.

I also used my neutral density filter with some of the shots to open up my aperture and reduce the depth of field…. again to create more of a stylistic image.   I hope you enjoy the images.


Even Christian Could Nail Focus With this!

24 06 2011

Hey check this out… this is very interesting.  A camera that doesn’t rely on focus.  Doesn’t sound like a scam, sounds like the real deal.  If this is the case, it’s one of the biggest leaps forward in photography in a long time.


Off Camera Flash Workshop For Perth?

14 05 2011

Hey there Sand Gropers

I’m going to be visiting Perth for a few days of business in early June and was contemplating putting on a 1 day workshop for bringing models into your landscapes and shooting with Off Camera Flash.

I’ve been running this workshop over here now for about 8 months and it is very popular.  So if you would like to attend this workshop, just drop me an email at and express your interest.  If there is enough interest I will make it happen.

Not sure whether you guys just shoot “scapes” over there or what.  More information about the workshop can be found here.

This one is for Wacom Tablet Users – 3 Great Tips!

12 01 2011

If you have been to any of my workshops, then you know that I utterly encourage the use of pressure-sensitive tablets like the Wacoms for post processing.   If your not using one, chances are you haven’t been shown how to use them properly.

I thought I was reasonably decent with the tablet, but a few days ago I watched a Kelby training movie by Corey Barker on “Using the Wacom Tablet With Photoshop”.  Boy did I learn some very cool tricks.  Here’s just a few tricks that will turbo-charge your tablet-driven post production effectiveness.

Tip 1 – This was my favorite tip.  Program the button on the pen to adjust brush size and hardness.

If you are like me, you probably left the button on the pen to the default of launching the brushes menu.  It used to piss me off everytime I bumped it, and I never changed my brush sizes via the menu, always with the bracket keys (or touchstrip).    However Corey showed me a way better way of adjusting your brush size and hardness in Photoshop (works in CS4 and CS5).

Try this out…..

Open Photoshop and open any document.

Select the brush tool,  now hold down the <Cntrl>+<Option> keys down on your Mac (if you have a PC, list it on eBay and go and buy yourself a Mac now)

While you holding down <Cntrl>+<Option>  move your pen (or mouse) left and right….. This adjusts your brush size!

Cool eh?  Now move it up and down…. this adjusts your brush hardness…. Is that not WAY COOL!!!!

Now, here’s what you want to do.  Program that annoying little button on your pen to be <Cntrl>+<Option>, and then you can adjust your brush properties by clicking it, and dragging your mouse around.

To program this on your Pen do the following.

a) Open up the Wacom tablet driver  from your System Preferences.

b) Make sure that your tablet is selected in the first row,  Your pen is selected in the tool row, and Photoshop is selected in the Application row

c) Select the pen button to bring up the programming for the pen

d) I adjust the bottom part of the pen button and disable the top part of the button.  Select “Modifier” for the bottom part of the pen button

e) select <Cntrl>  <Option> and <Click> Check boxes

Thats it, give it a try.

Tip 2 – Make the Eraser Useful

I never use the eraser (because I’m typically painting on layer masks with white and black brushes),  so I never used it, but Corey showed me a great tip to make this useful.  I am often toggling between Photoshop and Lightroom,  so what I did was to program the eraser to be a toggle straight back into Lightroom (would also work for Bridge etc.).  To do this click on the Eraser button  and select “Open Run” from the menu choices and then browse to your Lightroom (or Bridge) application.

Tip 3 – Program up your Express Keys and your Touch strips.

I’ve been programming up my touch strips (left zooms in and out,  right cycles through blend modes), and also my Express keys (lots of goodies on there that I use regularly like Space Bar, B for brush, X to toggle Black and White, Option key, etc.   Don’t be lazy, use them thoughtfully.

Not using a Wacom tablet?

You don’t know what you are missing.  Seriously, I can not process images properly with just the mouse anymore,  it DRAMATICALLY speeds up your effeciency and effectiveness in post production.  The tablet is not a substitute for the mouse (I still use the mouse), but the secret lies in unlocking the pressure sensitivity along with Layer Masks.



Tethered Shooting To A Wireless iPad – Very Cool!!!!!

2 08 2010

iPad Users… You are going to LOVE this posting!!!!!

When the iPad was first announced, I was very excited about the using this device for photography.  Besides the obvious benefits of displaying photos, I imagined using the iPad as a tethered monitor for high resolution display of images in the field without having to lug a laptop around.  Alas, I was disapointed to hear that there was no USB connection on the first model.  While I love my iPad I had all but given up the thought of using it as a convenient high resolution monitor for tethered shooting.  Then all of a sudden I had a brain wave about how I could make this work.  When I tested it out, it worked like a treat.   I haven’t seen any mention of this on the internet anywhere, so hopefully this blog posting will help other photographers turn their iPad into a super convenient wireless monitor for tethered studio sessions.   Check out this video which will show it to you in action.

How Does It Work?

This should work with any Canon or Nikon camera

It definitely works with a Mac, however I’m not sure if there is an equivalent solution for Windows.

Here’s what you need.

  1. Camera (I know it will work with Nikon and Canon, but probably other brands as well)
  2. USB cable that you would normally use to shoot tethered.
  3. Mac Computer (Works fine on a Mac Pro laptop, iMac etc.)
  4. Tethering software (that runs on the Mac) I am using Lightroom 3, but you could also use Sofortbild or Canon tethering software.
  5. Air Display Software for the Mac (free) from Avatron
  6. Air Display Application for iPad ($9.99) from the AppStore on your iPad

Start by installing Air Display on your iPad.

Then download the Air Display Application for your Mac from Avatron.  You can get this by clicking here.

Get Airdisplay working as an extended desktop first (pretty cool eh)?

If you don’t have a wireless network operating in your shooting location, then you can create an Ad-Hoc Network from your Mac.  This means you don’t need a wireless router to communicate with your iPad… Your Mac computer will talk wirelessly to the iPad without any other hardware.

Then I started my tethering software (in my case it was Lightroom 3) and I configured my virtual second monitor into Loupe mode

Once I started my tethered shooting session the images just appear beautifully on my iPad.

If you drag the tethering control window onto the virtual monitor on the iPad you can remote trigger the camera.

Now I just need to design a cool little holder for my tripod… any suggestions?

I hope you find this posting useful… look forward to your comments and reactions.



A Great Tool For Photographers!

18 04 2010

Hey folks

Somebody recently pointed me to a new tool for landscape and urban photography…. so of course I was pretty interested and checked it out.  In the first week that I have been using the software it has already helped me immensely and I urge you all to check it out.

It is called The Photographers Ephemeris… Now I don’t know about you but I didn’t know what the hell an Ephemeris was (but I do now)…. It’s basically tables of astronomical movements (sun, moon etc.)  Now while I was relying on various other sites to give me information about sun and moon positions, what I like about this tool is the integration to Google Maps.  You can simply put in an address or location, and you see a placemark appear on the Google Maps screen showing sunrise, sunset, sun & moon position at any point int the day overlayed over the Google Maps!!!  It’s Awesome.

The thin orange line shows the direction of the Sun at the time I was shooting. On the right hand side you can see the elevation of the sun at that time is < 30degrees

A Recce shot at the Old Dunlop Factory

Let me relay a real case study of how this has helped me on a shoot that I am planning later today.  Last Saturday I went to the abandoned Dunlop Factory in Alexandria for a scouting trip in preparation for a shoot that I am planning today.  I took this photograph of my son as a scouting shot.   I rang the model and set a time of 3PM on Sunday for the shoot figuring that as the sun sets the ambient light will be lower and I’ll have more control with my strobes.   Now yesterday I was playing with The Photographers Ephemeris and I typed in the address to the search box at the bottom and my location came up.  I then adjusted the calendar to todays date and moved the time slider to 3PM.  It immediately showed me that the angle and elevation of the sun was wrong for my shoot.  The old warehouse has big open sides on the second story, and I didn’t realise that they were facing due West.  This would mean that the setting sun would shine right into the factory and give me too much ambient light.  So I called the model and re-scheduled the shoot for 90 minutes earlier when the elevation of the sun would be higher (about 40 degrees).

This is a great tool, it’s available free for Mac & Windows platforms, and you can buy it for your iPhone as well.   I have bought it as well as downloading it on my Mac at home and I have also made a donation to the developer of this great bit of software.

Head on over to the developer’s website where you can download the application and also watch a couple of quick tutorials on how to use it.



Whats In My Seascape Camera Bag?

26 01 2010

My guess is I’m not the only one that has accumulated way more photographic gear than will fit comfortably in a single camera bag.  So I tend to pack my camera bag for specific types of shoots that I am going on.  I enjoy seeing what other photographers have in their camera bag, sometimes they have a very cool accessory that makes life  a lot easier.  So I thought I would share with you whats in my bag and on my belt when I’m photographing seascape or landscape images.

A – My Crumpler photo bag…. I like this bag for a couple of reasons

  • It’s well made and well designed
  • For seascapes, sometimes you are standing and wading in water, so you can’t put the bag down anywhere (which is a problem with backpacks)
  • It’s fast to get access to your gear
  • Comfortable to carry short-med distances (I’d use a backpack if I had a big hike ahead of me
  • The only time I have damaged gear is from backpacks where I don’t fully do the zippers up and gear has fallen out when I have lifted up the backpack.  With the Crumpler it has a flip over flap which velcros shut.
  • Has a handy little front pouch with easy access
  • Easily adjustable internal pads to support camera and lenses.

B – My ShamWow shammy – I have this folded up at the bottom of my bag in case I get wet while shooting.  It also provides extra padding at the bottom of the bag for lenses etc.

C – My Nikon D700 with 24-70 f2.8 lens.  The camera also has a Really Right Stuff L-Bracket on so I can flip from horizontal to vertical format in a flash while keeping camera weight over the center of the tripood head.

D – My Nikon 17-35mm f2.8 lens.  This is probably on my camera the majority of the time when I’m shooting seascapes

E – My Nikon 16mm fisheye lens

F – My Hoodman LCD Loupe – I just got this recently and I love it for the following reasons:

  • If you are trying to view your LCD in a bright light, then it’s a disaster without this
  • I wear glasses, and normally when I want to inspect the LCD I have to remove them to focus on the LCD.  Because the Hoodman has a diopter in it, I can leave my glasses on and focus on the LCD (yay!!!)
  • There is something special about inspecting your LCD with the Loupe.  It’s almost like watching your image projected on the screen of a cinema… it’s all dark except for your LCD image, and you can really study it without ambient distractions.  I think it must be a bit what it is like when large format photographers put the black cloth over their head and study the ground glass.

G – My legal rights as a photographer in NSW.  This is a cool 1 page dual sided print out that summarises my legal rights as a photographer in Australia…. Everything from shooting in public places, through to photographing people in public etc.  I have that in my bag in case I get into a tussle with a cop or security guard about photographing certain locations.

H- My business card with contact details.  I had a terrible scare once where I left my camera bag on location and didn’t realise for about an hour.  While I was absolutely crapping myself on the drive back, what made it worse was that I realised I had no contact information in my camera bag.   Now I make sure I have a biz card in each of my camera bags.

I – My home made night photography table.  Allows me to calculate exposure for moonlight photography.

J – Allen key to adjust my tripod adjustments

K – 2 spare batteries for my D700

L – Lots of spare CF cards (I now shoot with a 32GB card in the camera which gives me 1,200 RAW files, but it’s nice to have a few extra cards in case of problems or in case I can’t unload.

M – My electronic timer and cable release

N – Lens cleaner solution from Visible Dust.  I’ve found this stuff to be the best at cleaning lenses without leaving smears.  It’s great stuff.  I get it shipped from the USA because I haven’t found anybody here who sells anything as good.

O – Heaps of microfibre cloths. If I’m shooting with lots of spray in the air, I put a few in my left pocket and a few in my right pocket.  Left pocket does a wet clean, then right pocket cloths polish the lens or filters clean.

P – Optech Rain Sleeve – weighs nothing, costs nothing, takes up no room, but provides good insurance for big wave action, rain or spray.

Besides my Crumpler full of stuff, there are a few more accessories I carry.  I usually either sling my tripod or carry it as a walking stick.  Around my waist I wear an army belt with a pouch for my filters.  Here’s what I use.

1 – Velbon carbon fibre tripod with Really Right Stuff BH40 Ballhead.  I love this head for a heap of reasons:

  • It’s super light weight but will support all my lenses (including my 70-200 f2.8)
  • You can just rinse it under water if you get salt or crap on it
  • It’s great for pano’s because it has a swiveling pano base
  • Nice friction adjustments
  • I can change my camera from horizontal to portrait in about 2sec flat and everything is balanced over the center point.
  • Really Right Stuff make absolutely gorgeous gorgeous gorgeous gear.  If you appreciate well made gear, you will love theirs.

2 – My filter pouch and military belt.  Having your filters right there all the time makes it easy to drop in an ND filter, or try a polariser.

3 – My set of ZPro filters (100mm wide).  These include from left to right…

  • Cokin circular polariser
  • Singh Ray 3 stop hard GND
  • Sing Ray 2 stop hard GND
  • Lee 3 stop soft GND
  • Lee 2 stop soft GND
  • Lee 3 stop ND
  • B&W 10 stop ND

4 – My Cokin ZPro filter holder and 77mm adapter ring.

I hope you find whats in my camera bag interesting.  If you have some equipment that you regularly carry, please share it by commenting on this post below.

Happy Australia Day Everybody