A Gardening Shot with LED Lights

This week’s Project 52 assignment was to Welcome Spring with A Gardening Shot – with a focus on gardening. Supposedly the client is simply looking for something to catch the eye. They are a small hardware store and the image is for their “Get Ready for Spring” store promotion.

I wanted to bring a LOT of color to my gardening shot. I envisioned a “wall” of flowers behind some hand tools and some colorful seed packets.

So after work, I headed to my local nursery and cruised around looking for the most colorful (and somewhat color coordinated) flowers, hand tools and seed packets that I could find. My total cost was $56, which was well under the client’s budget of $1100.

I knew that I would have to shoot them that evening, as I had chosen the flowers for the way they looked right then, and didn’t want to risk any of them wilting over the next day or two. Although there was still more than 2 hours of daylight remaining, it was very windy, and I wanted the flowers to remain still while I photographed them.

So it was into the garage I went and simply arranged the items pretty much how I had envisioned them onto a folding table. Since I was going all-out for color, I brought out my blue backdrop cloth, instead of my boring gray one. For lighting, it occurred to me that this might be a perfect opportunity to try out the new Fotodiox Pro LED 312AS panels that Kirk Tuck had recommended.

These continuous lights (as opposed to “flash” lights) have a knob to adjust the color of the light being output from 5600K (color of daylight) down to 2300K (color of a tungsten lamp). I set the knob to the 5600K setting, and set the white balance in my camera to 5600K.

Notice the strong magenta color cast in the gray card (by definition, gray is without any color cast).  Something wasn’t right!

In his LED Lighting Book, Kirk had cautioned about the “green spike” in the color spectrum that these LED lights would produce, so I was very careful to perform a custom white balance in the camera. After making that adjustment in the camera, I took this photo, and you can see that the camera completely neutralized the magenta color cast!

Now I admit that I’m not sure why the color cast was magenta, and not green.  I know that the two colors are opposite each other on the color wheel. Kirk had to use “minus green” gels (which are magenta in color) over the face of his LED lights in order to neutralize the “green spike”. I can understand that concept, but I don’t understand why when the light was set to 5600K and the camera white balance was set to 5600K, the resulting initial image had a strong magenta color cast. (At any rate, I have ordered some 1/8, 1/4, 1/2 and Full MinusGreen gels made by Rosco to put over these lights in the future.)

OK, so I can’t explain the science, but I was glad to see that setting a custom white balance in the camera corrected it. Now on to my Project 52 assignment!

This first photo is very much how I had originally envisioned it.

It was certainly colorful, and would catch your eye at the hardware store, but I thought it was “too busy”.  To simplify it, I removed the gloves and the sprinkler head, and moved in a little closer.

That was better (to me), so I knew that my lighting was getting close to its final arrangement and power levels, so I took a photo with my ColorChecker Passport in it. Using this photo later in post processing, using software from X-Rite, I could create a custom “camera calibration” for my camera using these LED lights at this 5600K color setting.

The photo looked better but the angle didn’t seem right, so I got a little lower and took this one, which I liked the best (and it’s the same at the first photo in this post).

And finally, here is my set-up shot, which shows the 3 LED panels that I used.  Note that the top one didn’t have a fabric diffusion panel. It was there to light up the tops of the three colorful flowers in the back. It was positioned close to them, using a boom, and the power was turned way down in relationship to the other two lights.

Favorite Flowers

It’s been over 2 weeks since I’ve posted anything new on my blog, and even though I’ve been photographing some portraits of people, I haven’t really been feeling very creative (photographically) lately.

I’ve actually been feeling pretty darned depressed about my photography lately.  It seems like the more I learn, the more I realize that I really don’t know much at all.

I don’t really know the reason that I am so down right now, but I am.  I keep thinking about a Zach Arias video that I once saw on YouTube, named Transform. Although it is nearly 10 minutes long, if you watch it here, you will understand where my head is at right now.

In the meantime, I’ll just post some pretty pictures of flowers for you enjoy.

I thought about making this post “stuck in a mud hole”, but thought that wouldn’t be appropriate, especially if one of my clients were to see it….

I have to remember that a hole in the ground, with plenty of water, seems to be fertile breeding ground for flowers.

So I’ll try to focus on the pretty flowers for now.

By the way, these last 4 flower photos were taken at Puerto Maya, which is the shipping harbor just outside of Cozumel, Mexico.

And here’s just one more that I’ll include for this post.

So for now, I’m just going to have to wait for the creative juices to begin to flow again. The more that I try to make that happen, the deeper my hole seems to get.



Let’s Pour a Beer!

This week’s Project52 assignment is called “Let’s Pour a Beer!”.

The specific assignment is: “We are going to pour a beer and catch the ‘head’ coming up“.

I had never tried to photograph anything like this before, so I was pretty uncertain about how to do it. Here is my story of how I got to the photo shown above.

Don Giannatti gave the strong hint that the light needed to be coming from behind the beer, and shining through it.  To start, I placed my empty Cheers beer glass on a piece of clear Plexiglass, which in turn was on top of some white seamless paper that extended up behind the scene.

This was my 11th shot, as I dialed in the position and power of the two strobe lights, and to get the exposure right in the camera. I could see the horizontal line at the back, where the Plexiglass ended. That was something that would just have to be taken care of in Photoshop later.

Time to get a beer out of the refrigerator.

It didn’t take very long for the condensation to form on the outside of the bottle. I hoped that would last a while!

Those of you who know me, know that I rarely drink beer. (I’m a red wine kind of guy.) The choice of beer was entirely Barb’s as a result of me just asking her to pick up a 6-pack at the grocery store, and the only guidance I gave her was “don’t get something too cheap”.

Time to start pouring…

Whoa… Better slow it down!

Hold your breath, and hope it doesn’t spill over – because then I’d have a heck of a mess to clean up.

OK, I got lucky!. No mess to clean up, but I didn’t get the photo that I was hoping to get.  Pour that beer down the sink, but not before I had a big sip. It tasted great for a light beer!

Wash and dry the glass, then get it into position for a second attempt.

This time, let’s start out by filling the glass about 1/3 of the way, and let that settle down for a while.

OK, now start pouring again, but much slower than I did with the 1st bottle. I also tried to get my hand a little lower, and more into the photo.

This is working out much better this time!

I really liked the deep penetration of bubbles under the surface of the beer at this point. In fact, this is the actual photo used at the beginning of this post – but before I did any finish to it in Photoshop.

This photo and the one 2 photos back were edited later in Photoshop to blur the horizontal line where the Plexiglass ended at the back. As a final edit, I cropped the photo to remove some of the extra white space on the left side of the photo – and that is shown as the opening photo to this post.

And I just kept pouring, until the bottle was empty.

And that is the end of my “Pour a Beer” story…. almost.

Here’s a photo of the setup that I used to make this photo.

It took a while to tear down and put away all of my equipment, but once I did, I got a chance to sit down and watch the end of the Baylor vs. Notre Dame women’s basketball National Championship game. I really enjoyed drinking THIS beer while I watched that game, too!