Dave Johnson's Photography

Photos & Thoughts

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Have a Holly Jolly Christmas!

It’s been a while since I’ve posted so what better way to rectify that problem by showing you some photos of my family getting in the Christmas spirit. The scene was set; the tree was nicely decorated, the lights were sparkling, camera was on a tripod on a self-remote release, and most importantly we all had our Christmas jumpers on!

I set the camera to take 10 shots consecutively in the hope that at least one would have us all looking at the camera and smiling! Now, whoever said never work with kids or animals is pretty much spot on. Unbeknown to us, as Lou and I were sitting behind, after the first shot Mia started pulling faces. It wasn’t until we looked back through to assess the handy work that we noticed the little tyke sticking her tongue out and pulling funny monster faces! Her shenanigans resulted in the ‘Alternative Family Christmas Portrait’ posted below.

As the year draws to a close most people reflect on the past year and look forward to what the new year holds. 2012 has been a busy year for all of us and all that I am looking forward to at the moment is a relaxing wonderful Christmas with my family. What will 2013 hold for the Johnsons? I guess we will just have to wait and see…

Happy Christmas one and All. Enjoy and Be Merry!

Happy family

Alternative portrait

Ben and dad

Thumbs up

Christmas Elves!


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More experimentation with speedlites

As per my previous post, I have been experimenting a little more with speedlites. The problem I am currently tackling is getting the image that I am imagining in my head. For example, the last few shots of Ben diving for the ball were taken yesterday afternoon (in bright sun hence the lens flare!) but as I don’t have a stand for my off camera flash the resultant light from it looked a bit naff with most of it going on the grass. Now I could have enrolled a trusty assistant but M was just not getting into the spirit of standing still whilst holding a flash. However, even though the shots didn’t turn out the way I had imagined it was still a good little learning session and something to work on.

I am also looking to invest in a new speedlite that can act as a slave and a master. There are quite a few available on eBay so I’m hopeful I will have one soon. This might allow me to get the shots in my head onto paper – or the digital sensor as it is these days!

Anyway, it’s all a work in progress and slowly but surely I am learning the techniques. Now all I need to do is master them šŸ˜‰

M with speedlite placed directly behind her

M with speedlite placed directly behind her

Ben shot with a roll of paper acting as a snoot!

Ben shot with a roll of paper acting as a snoot!



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Experimenting with Speedlites

I wouldn’t say I’ve recently become obsessed with speedlites, or strobism, as the cool kids say, but I have been spending quite a bit of time experimenting with different setups. My experiments with flash started when I was preparing myself for the Wedding of The Year, where I knew I would need to be able to control both ambient and flash in order to get balanced exposures that don’t resemble the deer caught between the headlights kind of shot – normally associated with on-camera flash from compact cameras.

I also invested in a couple of books, one from the master of speed lighting, Syl Arena, and the other by an accomplished wedding photographer called Neil van Niekirk. If you are interested in improving your speedlite technique then I would definitely recommend these books. Out of all the information in the book the one piece that has stuck with me and allowed me to get more creative and achieve better results is that ambient light exposure is controlled by shutter speed whilst flash exposure is controlled by aperture. What this basically means is that by choosing a suitable shutter speed for the ambient light conditions you can achieve wonderfully balanced shots that don’t even look like flash has been used!

The other thing that has got me interested in maximising the use of my speedlite is that my pop-up flash on my Canon 7D can act as a wireless master and trigger external flash units. What this means is that I can now set up my speedlite (in slave mode) off-camera and use my camera to trigger the unit – with or without the pop-up flash firing.

I am going to be brave and post a few shots of some of my experiments to show what I have been up to. Some of these include off-camera flash but a couple are also about using flash to fill in harsh shadows or for taking photos against the sun. Finally, With the recent purchase of some coloured gels I can now play around with some funky effects. As I said before, this is all about experimenting but any comments or tips would be greatly appreciated. Dave

The composite image below was taken in the woods earlier today. The shot on the left was with no-flash and due to the sun coming from the right hand side you can see that the light across the image is quite variable. This made it quite tricky to get the correct exposure of Mummy and Mia without the rest of the highlights in the image completely blowing out. By adding some fill-flash it allowed the ambient light to be controlled a lot better resulting in a more balanced shot. The shot with flash was used with the camera in manual but the flash used E-TTL II to determine the flash exposure.

Woods_fill flash

This next composite is with off-camera flash being held behind Ben by my trusty assistant. As I said, this is all experimentation at this point which is why you can see said trusty assistant (and her side kick) in one of the images. It’s pretty obvious where the flash was placed but the idea would be to soften the brightness of this flash to give a nice backlit effect – as can be seen around Ben’s head. The second of the shots Lou held the flash at a 90 degree angle to the children – as can be seen by Mia waving at the flash!!

Off-camera flash

This composite is of M playing in the bath. The speedlite was gelled and placed off-camera with the Canon 7D pop-up flash firing and also triggering the speedlite. I was using my wide angle lens for these shots and Unfortunately, as can be seen in the image on the bottom, there is quite a considerable vignette being caused by the pop-up flash. In an ideal world a second speedlite would be used, again either on or off-camera which would eliminate this problem.

Coloured gels_bathtime

Final composite is again of M in the bath with the external flash being gelled red. What I am trying to achieve with the gelled shots is to get the subject (i.e. M) exposed correctly but without the colour cast from the gel. The gel is to provide some background interest to an otherwise bland white bathroom. In the final shot the speedlite was placed in the bedroom, triggered by the pop-up flash of the Canon 7D.

Coloured gels_fun

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Mia and the Apple

Today Mia has been particularly cheeky, none more so than when she decided to help herself to some fruit! I suppose I should be pleased that she went for the fruit and not the sweets or cakes. However, as you can see from these photos, she wasn’t content with having just the one apple. No, she wanted two apples and even tried to eat an un-peeled orange.

On the plus side, this little cheeky session she was on allowed me to my new lens through its paces again, and also to try and apply some freshly learnt skills about speedlites. One area of photography that I have never got to grips with, and should since I am shooting a wedding in the Spring, is flash photography. Anyway, to make my life a little easier I’ve purchased a book and have spent the last day going through it and then running off to do a little experiment. I’m slowly getting there but the key, as with most learning(!) is to be able to recall this knowledge when its needed…only time will tell if this will be the case.

Until then, enjoy these pictures of Mia and the story of her apple!