Saturday, November 27, 2010

Book Review: "Captured by the Light" by David Ziser

"Captured by the Light" by David Ziser is a book that I had looked at on for a good bit of time.  I was just not sure it was a book for me.  After hearing all the buzz on the Internet I decided to give it a try and see what all the hype was about. 
"Captured by the Light" details Wedding photography but it can be used to improve any on location portraits.  Its primary focus is the use of light (artificial and natural) to ensure beautiful portraits of the bride, groom, and guests.  I mentioned previously that I once referred to my self as a natural light shooter and the reason?  It was my lack of ability with artificial light.  I have since become a light shooter, no longer relying just on natural light although it will always be an option.  If you are new to artificial light shooting or are thinking of getting into wedding photography this is a must have book.  I read it from cover to cover and have since gone back to look up specific topics.  I would list the pros and cons on this book like any other review but I find that there are no cons save one.  What is the con?  He does not detail a wedding shoot from start to finish.  Granted this book is about becoming a good wedding photographer not managing the photo shoots.  If you do a search on the Internet for David Ziser you will find a tremendous amount of information (including how to manage photo shoots).  You can check out his blog at  He updates it almost daily and often has instructional videos as well. 

Since I have been a photographer there have been two books that have had a major influence.  The first is John Shaw's "Nature Photography" and secondly, this book. 

Simply put....  This book is amazing.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

A Beatiful Wedding

I was asked to be the photographer for a wedding which took place this past Saturday.  First off, I would like to thank the bride and groom for being most welcoming.  They treated my wife (who was my assistant) and I like friends of the family.  Seriously we must have had 10 people let us know that we could eat and/or drink anything there.  Thank you Arthur and Eli Buege for sharing such a day with us.

This was my first solo wedding.  Kim (my wife) went along as the assistant and took care of light placement etc.  It was a beautiful outdoor event and the weather was cooperative.  Taking photos outside in the middle of the day with very limited cloud cover is perhaps one of the most difficult aspects of photography...  Nothing like a challenge the first time out!  Still, it didn't take too much time to get the hang of how this would work.  Typically, I exposed the ambient light -1 stop and compensated with high flash out put.  This allowed me to properly expose the subject with the flash and have a slightly darkened background.  Approaching the lighting like this helps give the subjects separation from the background.  You can see this in the first image here.

The second image I had Kim lower the umbrella and get behind the bride and groom with the main off camera flash.  I turned the on camera flash toward them and set it at a -1 1/3 just to give a touch of fill light.  If you look close you can see a subtle rim light around their head.  I think this adds a bit of flavor to this image.

This bride and groom had great chemistry and many of the moments I was able to capture without the typical posing.  The black and white image below shows this a bit and was captured just as we started the bridal party group photos. 

The was hard work no doubt and the post processing took longer than the actual wedding.  However, it was an absolute blast and the clients had great things to say about the end results.  So long as they are happy....  I am happy.

Thanks again Arthur and Eli...  we wish you a happy and blessed marriage.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Product Review (among other things): Nikon D700

Finally, I have a full frame DSLR camera. So, what is a DSLR? DSLR stands for Digital Single Lens Reflex and basically means you can change lenses out and that there is a mirror inside the camera that allows you to look straight through the lens. This mirror raises and falls each time you press the shutter release button. What does full frame mean? It means that the sensor is the same size as a 35mm negative which has some pluses and minuses over what we call a crop sensor camera (APS-C). What is a crop sensor camera? A crop sensor DSLR is a DSLR that has a sensor smaller than that of a 35mm negative causing the image to be cropped from what a Full Frame camera would produce. The crop factor is 1.5 for Nikons and 1.6 for Canons. That means if you have a lens that is 100mm on a Full Frame camera and you put it on a Nikon it becomes a 150mm lens (or 160mm on a Canon).

Full Frame cameras typically have much better low light performance than crop sensors (ISO performance). This is because the pixel sites are larger on the full frame causing less noise. See one of my older post for greater detail about ISOs and noise. You can find that HERE.

If you own a DSLR then chances are you have either a full frame sensor or a crop sensor. There are medium format DSLRs out there but they run $15,000+ so they tend to be out of most peoples price range. Additionally, there is a relatively new type of camera on the market called a micro 4/3rds. These have sensors smaller than that of a crop camera, have interchangeable lenses but do not contain a mirror…so they are not technically DSLRs but have been grouped with them in most cases.

Anyway, sorry about the technospeak…..  Now, on to the review.

What I am going to talk about now is the Nikon D700 Full Frame camera. You can find ALL the technical information on Nikon’s website so I will not go into that level of detail on this post. I just want to cover the basic pros and cons of the Nikon D700 camera

• Full Frame Sensor (finally, wide angle lenses are wide angle again)

• Solidly built (Magnesium alloy frame)

• Great low light performance: I can easily get usable photos from an ISO of 3200.

• Up to 8 frames a second. This frame rate is great for action shots. (or if you just want to look cool around other photographers)

• Clear viewfinder

• Very high image quality


• Larger file sizes (storage is cheap now though)

• You loose the crop factor meaning that the focal length of your lens is not increased (also a pro…see above)

• Cost: Full Frame cameras are much more expensive than APS-C cameras

• No video (not a deal breaker for me since I don’t shoot video)

I am highly impressed with the performance of the Nikon D700 and consider it one of the best full frame cameras on the market today.

Camera Equipment DOES NOT make you a better photographer...  It just gives you more options.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Book Review: "Understanding Exposure" by Bryan Peterson

 "Understanding Exposure" by Bryan Peterson
  • Fantastic Art Work by Bryan Peterson
  • Good explanation of depth of field and shutter speed
  • If you have a good understanding of exposure it will build upon what you already know.

  • It reads a bit like a scientific technical manual even though it wants you to believe it is for the lay person.  It attempts to explain exposure in the most difficult of ways rather than remaining simple and then moving into the more challenging aspects.  I have been in photographer for a long time and have a good grasp on exposure...  that is the only reason I was able to make it through what I did. 
  • It is the 5th edition (I also have the 3rd edition) and you could tell where he just changed up a few words to try and make it a bit more modern. 
Stay away from this book unless you are an experienced photographer with a good grasp on exposure.  If you are new it has the potential to send you in the wrong direction regarding exposure. 

If I knew then what I know now....  I would have still made the purchase because I already understand how exposure works and it gives me the ability to write this review.  Bryan Peterson is an astounding photographer but not a very good author.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

What a Week!

This week started off like any other.  Then, the phone calls started.  I ended up doing two photo shoots for other people and some random photos for myself.  All and all it was a great week for photography.

First, there was a football game and at half-time was the homecoming court.  A friend from church called and asked if I could do photos for them.  Now, the issue lies in that I have never photographed a sporting event.  You have to start somewhere.  Yes, that was my answer.  It was a lot of fun and very challenging.  I am happy to report that the Princeton Christan School Panthers won their homecoming game.

The homecoming court went great.  These were some awesome young men and women.  Take a look above at the King and Queen.  Congratulations guys!

Next, I received a phone call on Thursday from the Roxy Theatre Group of Miami and they needed a photographer on short notice to do some group photos.  Now, the issue lies in that I have never photographed this many people (2 groups of 60+ kids)  Yes, was my answer.  I arrived on Saturday morning and met with a friend and we co-oped the shoot.  This was the most organized group of kids I think I have ever seen.  Great bunch and you can certainly tell by this photo that they had a lot of character.
Saturday afternoon my family decided to go to a local park with our son and let him run around.  We thought we might get a glimpse of the Blue Angels performing at Homestead Air Force Base.  Boy did we ever!  They were turning to go back to the runway right over head (few hundred feet above).  What an awesome sound!  We are planning on going to the airshow Sunday but I was happy to get this shot!

While there, as you would expect, I snapped a few shots of the family.  They say to improve your craft there is nothing like practice.  I have certainly gotten some practice in this week and with some aspects of photography that were new.  It has been a great week for photography and as the week ends I will find myself at an airshow....  Whew!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

The Balancing Act

Here I sit at my dinning room table typing this blog post.  My wife is setting across the room on our love seat watching a Panthers Hockey Game (so am I).  My son is chasing the dog all over the place laughing all the while.  I wanted to try and do a detailed photography blog about a recently read photo book but right now...  there are way to many distractions.  I welcome them all!  This is life, this is what helps feed my creativity and my love of photography.  So, pardon me while I turn the computer off and play with my son.