Sunday, April 24, 2011

The Kenko 1.4x DGX 4

The Kenko 1.4x DGX is a pretty cheap alternative to the Canon version. So far I have no complaints about it. It's one of my most important accessories for taking outdoor shots. For around $120 it is a steal. It includes the front and end cap and a bag. Image quality is pretty good. I recommend it. But what basically is a teleconverter?

One of the most important tools that photographers use is the teleconverter. Teleconverters are basically extenders for your lenses. A 1.4x teleconverter means that it multiplies your range to 1.4 times. A 2.0x teleconverter doubles it. So a 200mm lens with a 1.4 teleconverter will become a 280mm, and it becomes a 400mm with a 2.0x. It is way cheaper to buy teleconverters than buying lenses with greater focal lengths, and also it allows you to still use your favorite lenses that you already have. So what's the catch?

Teleconverters slow down your'd lose 1 stop with a 1.4x teleconverter and 2 stops with a 2.0x. So your f2.8 lens will be an f4 lens with a 1.4 teleconverter, and it will be an f5.6 with a 2.0 teleconverter. I opted to get a 1.4 instead of the 2.0 because 2 stops is a lot to lose in my opinion.

Teleconverters also have an effect in your lens focus speed. You need that extra focus speed when photographing flying birds or that tennis player that's running around in the court. I use a teleconverter for my 70-200 IS USM lens and considering it has a fast focus motor, I feel that the speed is greatly reduced when I use my teleconverter.

Another downside to using them is the image quality. Anything that you add on to your lens optically diminishes the quality of it, that extra glass will have an effect on the quality. Extension tubes though are different because they only increase the distance of your lens to your sensor and they don't have extra glass in them...they are just tubes. With teleconverters, expect more chromatic aberrations on your images. Also you can only use these on lenses that are 50mm and longer.

They are cheaper though than buying the actual lens with the same focal length. It's also lighter to bring than bringing that extra lens.

All in all, it's up to you if a teleconverter is worth it. I use it all the time for bird hunting.

Here are my sample shots with the teleconverter attached to my 70-200 lens:

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

The flowing liquid shot

Ever wonder how they do those flowing liquid shots in ads?

It's a combination of high speed shutter, and the perfect lighting that makes an awesome flowing liquid shot. I myself am so addicted to doing it I spend hours every night just to get that perfect shot.

It's really simple to do. It's almost the same setting as the high speed water splash shot that I discussed here. You basically need about 2 strobes, actually 1 would do, but I prefer the background lit up by an independent strobe. For my shots I use 4.

For these shots I use:

4 strobes, 3 with softboxes, 1 with a shoot through umbrella
a tripod
a macro lens, or a lens that can do closeups
a white background
a waterproof mat
shutter release if you want

I set my camera to a narrow aperture...around f11 or more. This will prevent you from going out of focus when you take a shot of the flowing liquid that moves. Powerful lights are necessary for you to set your aperture to a narrow setting, that's why I use 4. I then set my speed to around 200/sec. My camera has a sync speed of 250/sec maximum to the flash, I use 200 because I want a little bit of room just in case the 250/sec darkens my corners a bit. Better if you have high speed lights...I don't so I'll stick to my 200/sec setting. When I'm in my studio, I always set my camera to ISO 100, the lowest I can go for my camera...heck if I have ISO 50 I would go for that. As you all know, this prevents noise in any shots.

A very good practice when taking these kinds of shots is to estimate where the flow of liquid would go...grab a pen, position the tip where you think the liquid will flow, then use your manual focus to focus on that spot. Make sure that your camera is in a it is impossible to do this handheld.

The light are positioned like this...1 overhead light with a softbox, 1 pointed at the background with a softbox, 1 on the left side with a softbox, 1 on the right with an umbrella. Main light would be either on the left or right side. Make sure the background light has enough light to blow out the highlights.

For this, I set my self timer then poured the liquid when it's about time to can use a shutter release, anything you prefer is fine.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

High speed water splash shot

I wanted to do something fun today so I decided to do a water splash shot. When you photograph water splashes, you know that you are supposed to use a fast shutter speed. Actually the maximum sync speed you have will really don't have to set it up above 250th of a second. Your flash will pause the water splash moment when you press on the shutter.

I have 4 strobe lights in my studio...none of them support the high speed function. My 430ex II flashes does support it, although I need a master that would trigger them both...a master that does have high speed sync built in it, too bad I don't have that. I'm not also willing to spend thousands of dollars for high speed strobes that enable you to capture the path of a bullet...I know I'm not gonna use it that often. So I just used whatever I have.

So I set up 4 strobes. 3 with softboxes and my main light had a shoot through umbrella. 1 shot the background, 2 from each side, and 1 above. So now I have enough light to capture my subject. I set my camera in a tripod, set my aperture at f11, my ISO at 100 and my speed to 200. I set my focus to manual and then focused approximately halfway through the glass.

I dropped my strawberry in the glass and pressed my shutter release at the same time...and I nail the shot!

200/sec isn't really that bad. If you can set up flashes with High speed sync, you can actually shoot however fast you want, although the flash power will be greatly limited the faster you go, this is better though because your flash fires shorter. For shots like this, it really does not matter that much because your flash will pause that moment when you press on your shutter. My settings worked for me so I'll go with that.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

The still life food shot

Today I bought some stuff because I wanted to photograph food and spices. I went to the store to buy a chopping board, salt and pepper shakers, some peppers, tomatoes etc...I guess if I wanted to make this photo look good, I'm gonna have to spend money on it. I had to replace our plastic chopping board with a wood one because wood is more pleasing to the eye on photos. I bought generic looking shakers so I don't have to worry about trademarks and stuff like that, keep that in mind if you do stock photos such as myself.

For these shots I used 2 lights. 2 softboxes, a black and blue backdrop, and my 70mm and 35mm lenses.
I used my overhead light as my main light to simulate a ceiling light and then I used 1 light on either side of the shot as a fill light. For the opposite side of the fill light I used a white reflector to gently fill in the shadows. Worked awesome for me as it didn't give me a harsh burning light that I am trying to prevent on shots like these.

One tip I can give you is to give your shots a bit of depth. You can do this by lighting the scene unevenly. Shadows aren't bad at all, as long as it's not distracting.