Category Archives: Lighting

Olympus Fashion Shoot – April 2017

In Lincoln, we have not one but two London Camera Exchanges and they are on a roll this year with so many events being organised by both of them. Last week was Silver Street store’s “Olympus Fashion Shoot” to coincide with this year’s Lincoln Fashion Week (28th April to 5th May). As the name implies this was an event arranged between LCE and Olympus.

Out local Olympus rep (Lewis) was there along with a great selection of Olympus system cameras, lenses and flash equipment. He and LCE’s favourite professional model Katie Lea came to show how to take stunning fashion shots. The shoot was in two parts from 10 to 12:30 we used the LCE store floor-space for an indoor shot followed by an outdoor shot in Lincoln from about 13:30 to 16:00. The LCE store also had some great offers on for the day but that 300mm f4 lens really wiped me out so I was not able to make use of these offers. My next investment must be a second body – another OM-D E-M1 MarkII – hopefully they will come down in price by the time I have saved up for one.

LCE/Olympus had set up a patterned backdrop for us and after experiencing problems using two Olympus flashguns via optical triggering we switched to radio triggers.

As a side note, this is one reason I am thinking of investing in some Nissin radio-based flashes over the Olympus branded versions; they offer all of the features at a much more attractive price. Two i60A flashes and a trigger cost about the same as a single Olympus FL900R. Whilst the Nissin flashes are more compact, they are not as quick charging and are not weather sealed like the FL900R. If outdoor shooting with a weather sealed flash was a need then investing in them might be a good idea.
I also managed to try out two Olympus lenses, the new 25mm PRO f1.2 lens and the (non-PRO) 75mm f1.8 lens. I wasn’t very impressed with the 25mm, even though I was shooting at f3.5/f4 the depth of field was very small and most of my shots were not sharp. The 75mm lens was a completely different “kettle of fish”; this lens is flipping sharp! I have used one before at a Damian McGillicuddy event a couple of years ago and I wasn’t impressed; however, this lens produced some amazing shots and I like the way that I was forced to think different as there were no zooming to get get in the way.

We moved the flashes around to get some different shots o Katie, her are my favourite shots:

After a lunch break we loaded up and ventured outside, we needed a good backdrop where there wasn’t too much foot traffic. We ended up near Stokes Caffe bridge on the south bank (opposite the “Glory Hole” side). After an abortive use of the reflector we all managed to get some nice photos:

We went to the entrance of this passage where this is an iron stair case, these didn’t produce a lot of great shots but I do like this one once I cropped out a lot of the extraneous detail:

Our final location of the evening was not far from where I work on Silver Street on the out-bound side near Sills and Betteridge Solicitors. All along this street are alley ways and we found one where we all tried lots of different styles and lighting techniques, these didn’t produce many great shots as they all looked like a flash was used; some coloured gels and lighting modifiers might have helped. We managed with what we had, here is my favourite:

Like always with Olympus/LCE shoots I learned a lot, managed to get some nice shots, had a great day and met up with likeminded photographers. I want to thank all the staff at LCE, Lee from Olympus and most of all Katie with putting up with us for the whole day. 🙂

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Judge’s Lodgings Studio Photography Workshop

Following the success of the LCE arranged Doddington Hall Portrait Photo workshop, they have arranged several follow-on workshops. On 28th February we had a Studio Photography Workshop that was hosted by John Clements and this time within the boundaries of Lincoln at the Judge’s Lodgings which is adjacent to the main entrance of Lincoln Castle and a short distance from Lincoln Cathedral.

There were 12 places available and (due to a last-minute cancellation) 11 workshop attendees, I recognised just over half of them from the Doddington Hall shoot last year. Like the previous workshop the camera you used didn’t matter and although I was the only one shooting with an Olympus (OM-D E-M1 MarkII) there was a good mix of Fuji, Canon DSLRs and Nikon DSLRs, surprisingly there were no Sony shooters. Although I was the lone Olympus user, the fact that had a E-M1 Mark II did generate some interest as not many had been seen in the wild. One of the users whose name escapes me for now (sorry not good with names) did show many things you could do with the OM-D, some I was aware of and some other things that were unknown to me – Thank you to whoever you are (if I found out their name I will update this post accordingly).

Taken straight from the LCE Events website here are the details for the course:
Photographing people is the most popular of subjects. But to do it well combines many skills such as lighting, composition and good guidance. So, join us on this workshop as highly respected pro photographer John Clements, shows and explains how to create a wide range of lighting skills and techniques, enabling repeatable and enjoyable results to be achieved when photographing people.

Following very positive feedback after his mini lighting sessions at our Doddington Hall event, imagine what can be achieved sharing a full day with someone who is used by major companies to teach and demystify lighting skills. Leave with a genuinely useful understanding of studio lighting, how it works, and how to shape light with it, to suit various face and body shapes, from the individual to small groups.

Easy to follow step-by-step, this inspiring day is equally suitable for those starting out, simply wanting a recap, or the pro, seeking a refresh and some new ideas. You will also create and leave with some fine images.

Some key areas covered include:

  • Understanding studio flash.
  • Camera settings for studio lighting.
  • Using a light meter for simple and advanced studio lighting arrangements.
  • Real world practical guide to using reflectors, umbrellas, soft-boxes and other common accessories for people photography.
  • Repeatable and practical lighting arrangements for repeatability, inside and out.
  • Working in and around the home or small studio/office environment.
  • Solutions to common people’s lighting needs, such as photographing people wearing glasses and dealing with various body and face shapes.
  • Posing & composition tips.
  • Creating clean white backgrounds.
  • Working with the ‘natural’ backdrop.
  • Creating ‘the quick’ backdrop solution.
  • Practical shooting sessions to cement the techniques and skills on the day.

The images:
Over the course of the day John would discuss a technique and then practically show the technique using the model who you might recognise as Katie from the Doddington Hall Photo-shoot. Some of these were part of an overall lighting strategy towards a final photo and some were single light effects.

The first 2 photos were from the same set of single light head-shots,I like both of these two especially Katie’s expression in the second photo:

The next photo was with two lights and has Katie’s hair undone:

We re-shot the “Black Widow” photo from Doddington Hall again, I’m much happier with this photo over my earlier attempt. Kudos to Katie for this one as it was very cold outside on the day and she only had the coat to keep her warm:

For the final session of the day we were split into two groups, and each group was given a room and brief for a photo shoot. We knew what Katie was wearing and our brief was to shoot an environmental photograph of Katie. I must say that this was a challenging part of the course and really makes you think about so many things, the room we were in was very big and there were so many distracting elements to avoid or camouflage in some way. I took a few photos and the only I really like is shown below:

I must say I had a great day and will join John on some other LCE courses he’s planning to run later in the year. I always enjoy networking with other photographers and I usually learn something new. If you would like to join any of the LCE courses, keep an eye on their Events page.

LCE Photo and Optics Show 2015

LCE-PhotoandOptics-2015

Two weeks on Wednesday is this year’s London Camera Exchange’s Photo and Optics show. I have been attending the show for the last few years now and it gets bigger and better every year, it’s a testament to the hard work that’s put into this by the LCE staff not only in Lincoln but further afield too.

This year looks to be no different, it looks like Olympus will have the biggest presence at the show which is good for me and Damian McGillicuddy is back again doing two events at the show; the events will also be better as the stage at the back of the hall is where they will be held. This was the only criticism I have from last year’s show, the event area wasn’t situated in the best place; I’m glad to see that my view were heard and acted upon – thanks Dave.

As well as Olympus we will have Canon, Nikon, Sony, Fujifilm, Panasonic, Lastolite and many many more, you can find more details about the show by clicking here. LCE will also have many show offers on for the day so bring your wallet and speak nicely to the bank manager.

I am really looking forward to the show and I hope to see you at the event 🙂

Off to The Photography Show 2015 today

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Thanks to a day off work both Richard and I are off to Birmingham’s NEC today to see this year’s Photography show. Thankfully Lincoln is not too far from the NEC and so it’s only a 1.5 to 2 hour drive depending upon traffic. We both really enjoyed the show last year and although we won’t be going to the Superstage this year (last year we saw Joe McNally) there is still a lot to see.

This is the third day of the four day event and whilst many of the bargains will have been sold there will still be some good deals on gear – I am taking a list of a few times that I have been looking at – nothing exciting just a battery to two for my E-M1 and a new camera bag. Now that I shoot with an Olympus I will be heading straight for the Olympus stand so that I can book myself on one or two of their events running all day. I hope to see Aiden from Olympus there along with a few of the Olympus affiliated photographers such as Damian McGillicuddy and Rob Pugh as well.

However, just visiting the Olympus stand would mean that I will miss all of the other things happening on the day so I will visit many other locations to see what they offer and hopefully try out some of the more exotic gear too.

Canon
Canon have a few new items that will be on show including their new 50MP cameras the 5DS and 5DSR, these will be very similar to the 5D Mark III so beyond the handling I’m not sure what I will get from that. If we are allowed to take a few pictures on our own cards it might be worth it to see what a 50MP picture looks like. I also hope to have a go with the EOS M3 mirrorless camera too, I’m interested in how this handles and how good the add-on EVF is. The new 11-24mm f4 lens will most likely be there and I want to see how wide this is on a 35mm full-frame camera.

Colour Confidence
These guys are distributers for many companies in the Uk such as DXO and X-rite, they are also running some seminars during the day including one with Frank Doorhof who I wanted to see last year but his showing clashed with other ones during the day. I have one of his books and videos I really like watching him, I enjoy his style of teaching and this will be the first time I will see him Live.

Leica
I do not get a chance to play with Leica gear very often so certainly be heading there. Although I am curious to see what the Leica T is like I do know that Richard is very interested in everything that they have to offer; after all he does have a couple of Leica M series cameras.

Nikon
There isn’t much from Nikon that I have not seen, the new D7200 will be very similar to the D7100 but how good is the expanded buffer? I have yet to see the Nikon 1 V3 camera and again I’m interested in how this handles too. Finally a play with the big boys the D810 and D4s with big lenses is needed to remind me of how heavy they are – you cannot argue with the image quality of the D810 but you are going to have to carry a large DSLR with heavy f2.8 or better glass to get the most out of it.

Olympus
Thanks to a chance meeting with Adain about a month ago and my local LCE stocking it, there isn’t much to see that I have not had a go with yet. Whilst the OM-D E-M5 Mark II will be the big news of the show along with the 14-150mm Mark II lens it would be nice to see the add-on “dot-view” viewfinder in action – I have a few questions about this. As I said earlier Olympus are running many events during the day and I would like to see some of these whilst I am there.

Panasonic
I have yet to play with the GH4 but this will handle similarly to to the GH3 but a go would be nice I would also like to see and play with the 42.5mm f1.2 lens and if they have it the cheaper f1.7 lens too. I am interested in getting the Olympus M.Zuiko 45mm f1.8 lens so want to see if this is better.

Sony
They were not present last year which was a shame but they will be here this year. The only items of interest for me are the new Sony A7 MarkII and some of the new glass that is coming out. I want to see how good the focus and IBIS (In Body Image Stabilisation) are too.

What Else?
I could go on and on but there is so much to see more than I can detail here. The best idea is to visit the Photography Show’s website here and see who else is there and what else is happening.

Family Photo Shoot

2015-02-21-JLSZ-PS-18
Last week was half-term week and we had the pleasure to look after my nephew Jack for the week. He was dropped off on Saturday by his Mum and Dad and collected the following weekend by his Mum (my sister – Louise). When he was here over Christmas we never managed to get any photographs of him and the ones that my Mum has are of a much younger Jack, she really wanted some more up-to-date photos of him.

So I decided to get the lights, stands and brollies out to take some professional looking portraits of Jack, with and without the dogs and as his Mum was here a few of them together – the best of which is the above photo that has been very popular on Facebook so far.

Anyone who reads my blog will know that I have used the same gear to take photos of the dogs with and without their Christmas Gear. They always like to be in on then action so here are a couple of shots of the dogs on their own taking during the shoot.

First we have Zara:
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And we cannot forget Seska too:
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The lighting setup was a simple affair; we had two Cactus RF60 speedlights and each of them were configured to fire into a reflective brolly, we had these set-up on light stands to camera-right and camera-left. They were controlled wirelessly with a V6 transmitter and adjusted to provide even lighting onto both sides of Jack’s face – a light meter allowed me to adjust the power on the lights indepdendantly until I had them providing a suitable amount of light on both sides of Jack’s face. Once this was achieved I noted the aperture and shutter speed for the ISO that I wanted to use; this was before a single photo was taken. I also had assistants (first his Mum an then my Mum) holding a silver reflector to provide a little bounced light to remove harsh shadows from under Jack’s chin.

With the shooting parameters noted I set the camera to manual, dialled in the appropriate settings (ISO 200, f3.5 and a shutter speed of 1/250 sec) and took one more test shot, Jack gave the thumbs up to proceed:
2015-02-21-JLSZ-PS-1

Jack being the age he is (9 going on 14 🙂 ) kept pulling faces and it was quite a challenge getting some nice photographs and occasional distraction form his mother and the dogs enabled more “non-staged” photos to be produced:
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However we also managed to get a few more poses from Jack. First we have the laid back:
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I then asked Jack to fold-his arms and look mean:
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Once he was less self-conscious I managed to get a much nicer photograph:
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Next we have, “The Thinker”:
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At this point the dogs decided that they also had to be in the picture again so jumped on Jack and we got a nice photo with no poses in sight:
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At times they were masking Jack, who struggled to keep in frame:
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Finally I persuaded Louise to join Jack and took a few of them together, all 3 of the shots in this post are nice but my favourite is the more candid one I have of them that is at the top of this post:
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I was quite happy with the results and this goes to show that the Olympus OM-D E-M1 camera paired with the awesomely sharp 40-150mm f2.8 PRO lens is a powerful picture taking machine and I am frankly very pleased with the results I am getting. Whilst the general rule is that it is the photographer who takes the picture, it helps when you “connect” with the gear that you are using and using off-camera flash really helps provide the goods. My next exercise will to try out some dramatic lighting – I just need to find a willing subject.:)

More Dog Photos

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Earlier this year I took some photographs of the dogs with a Christmas theme called rather predictably “Christmas Dogs 2014”, you can read that post here. In that post I mentioned that the dogs would be trimmed in February and that I would take a few more photographs of them whilst they looked their best (well their best after 3 days that is).

So after their trim on Thursday I decided to take a few more photographs whilst they still looked decent but this time without the Christmas Theme. I decided I would like to have a photograph of them sitting together and for speed have them on their favourite sofa in the living room; I would then be at the other end of the room with the 40-150mm f2.8 lens on my OM-D E-M1. I went for another simple lighting effect with two Cactus speedlights, one on either side of the dogs bouncing out from umbrellas both at around 1/64 power.

This time I managed to take a meter reading and apply the settings to my E-M1 with the correct ISO and started to try and get pictures of the dogs together which is easier said than done. I picked the wrong time to take their picture as there was too much going on to have them sit for any real length of time on the sofa.

Zara was her usual photogenic self:
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Seska (when she was around) also looked very cute – it’s a small dog thing:
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Eventually I managed to get about 3 shots of them together looking in the general direction of the camera, only two of these had the dogs eyes in focus, one is at the top of the post, the other is at the bottom:
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The cactus speedlights performed flawlessly with no mis-firing and when fired independently from the trigger worked as required. I just should have taken photographs in the morning when Zara and Seska are a bit less frisky.

Updating the firmware on Cactus devices

I have been meaning to write this post for a few months but for one reason or other I never got round to it. However after using the RF60 speedlights and the V6 transceiver in a real-world(ish) situation over the last couple of days I decided that enough was enough I was going to update the firmware and document the process too since there was no a lot of detail out there.

You can access the Cactus firmware update software and the latest manuals at the following website: http://cactus-image.com/downloads.html. Downloading the software is as easy as clicking the appropriate link; both the flash and transceiver update software links download the same software:

Cactus-Downlaod-Page

I also thought that the situation has been made easier than before since Cactus have now created a Mac version of the updater software; currently this is at version 1.01 (the PC version is v1.13) and although it works with Mac OS X Mavericks, it does not work with Yosemite, you can read about this by clicking here. I found out the hard way by downloading the software on my Mac and then getting an error about the file being corrupt.

Fortunately, I also have access to a Windows 8.1 PC in the house too. After downloading and installing the software (simply running a single setup.exe file) seemed to work but it would never recognise that the flash gun nor the transceiver when plugged in via a USB cable. A quick read over the FAQ revealed that the badly written software had to be installed in a very specific way, you can read the FAQ here. However someone on YouTube (called “Dyeless”) has created a good video that shows you the process of installing the software visually. If you have Windows 8 I recommend that you watch the video:

So after successfully installing the software correctly I went onto getting the latest firmware onto my RF60 speed lights and the V6 Transceiver.

The Process for the v6 transceiver:
The V6 transceiver has a mini-USB port that allow you to connect them to a computer via a suitable USB (computer end) to mini-USB (V6 end) cable, when using suitable updating software you can upload various bug-fixes and new features too.

To check the firmware version of the V6 you need to press and hold down the “A” and “D” buttons and whilst holding them down then switch on the V6 in TX or RX mode. The LCD display will then show you the current firmware version that is installed. The LCD display will return to the main screen after 3 seconds.

My v6 Transceiver’s firmware version was v1.0.156 which is 10 versions behind the most recent version 1.1.007

Run the Cactus updater software, it should have an icon like this: Cactus-Icon

The software is very simple and looks like this when running, you will note the complete lack of any proper Windows conventions, I assume that the Mac version looks very similar if or when they update it to support Yosemite:
Cactus-Screen1

Make sure that you V6 transceiver is switched off and then remove the two batteries; I’m not sure why but the manual does have lots of warnings about plugging this in with the batteries connected. Remove the cover over the mini-USB port and connect this to the a mini-USB end of the USB cable to this, connect the other end to the computer.

You now need to press and hold the “menu” button on the V6 and then switch it on in Tx or Rx mode (it doesn’t matter which), the Windows computer I was using made the familiar doo-doo noise that means that the computer has detected something plugged into the computer. The Menu button can now be released; the V6 is now in firmware update mode. The status LED at the rear of the V6 blinks in red rapidly and the computer screen will now look something like this:

Cactus-Screen2

Click on the “Check for Latest Firmware” button. you will be presented with a list of firmware choices:
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The most recent or latest version is at the top of the list. In this case it is v1.1.007 that was released on 18th December 2014; click on the “SELECT” button to the right of the date. This firmware will download to the computer, in this case it was the version suggested when the V6 was first plugged in.

Click on the “UPDATE” button to transfer the firmware update to the V6, this only takes a few seconds:
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Once the software has been installed onto the V6 all of the LED channel lights and the display will light up, you can switch the V6 off and disconnect it. I recommend that you run the firmware check again to ensure that the latest version has indeed installed (one you have refitted the two AA batteries).

The firmware update will set the V6 back to factory defaults so you will need to change anything you set previously. For me this was the EV setting to 1/3 stops to match the OM-D and also enabling the Zoom/Power change toggle mode too.

The Process for the RF60 Speedlights:
Like the the V6 transceiver, the RF60 speedlights also have mini-USB ports too and they can use the same software to have their firmware updated.

To check the firmware version of the RF60 you need to press and hold down the “Next” button and whilst holding this down then switch on the RF60. The LCD display will then show you the current firmware version that is installed. The LCD display will return to the main screen after 3 seconds.

Both of the RF60 speed lights were only 1 version out of date, version 123 when the latest is v124

Before you can update the firmware on the RF60 speedlight, you will need to remove the 4 AA batteries first and unlike the V6 the flash unit will be recognised as soon as you connect the unit to the computer.

Assuming that the software is already running on the computer, when you connect the RF60 the screen will look similar to the one below:
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Click the “Check for latest firmware” button and you will be presented with a list of available firmware choices for the RF60 speedlight, select the most recent which in this case is v124 dated 21st July 2014:
Cactus-Screen6

Click the “SELECT” button to download this to the computer. If this is the version you are downloading there is a discrepancy in the date on the next screen, here it shows a date of 8th December 2014? The version is however the same, i.e. V124. Click the “UPDATE” button to install the firmware onto you RF60 speedlight.

Cactus-Screen8

Once the software has been installed, the software will display this screen and the entire display on the RF60 will illuminate and it will simultaneously beep three times:
Cactus-Screen9

The firmware installation on the RF60 is now complete, unplug the speedlight, install the batteries and ensure that the firmware is now the latest version (v124), you will also need to perform the same process on any other RF60 units you may have.

Did it fix my issues?
In a word “no”! But it seems that whilst one of the RF60 speedlights is always OK the second one sometimes needs to think about any changes you make. I have found a way to make it work, but it’s more of a work-around than a proper cure. I will have to keep on eye on it and see if a firmware fix comes out for it. Unfortunately I have had the speedlight for a couple of months now and sending it back would be a pain as I’m not sure if there is a UK based place to send it to.