He was excited about a great find at Costco; a 15 x 106 candlepower light for $29.95. He recommended it both for long .distance landscape lighting and for “painting with light”. He was able to light up shadows many hundreds of feet away. No one asked where he plugged it in! Perhaps his car?
He was quite enthused by LED lights, in particular the fact that they do not heat up and so can be left on for long periods. He made use of this for time lapse photography and showed a video of compiled still shots of daffodils opening. He had created a light studio with 3 LED lights [sold as clip on lamps for bed time reading]. The lights were on 24 hrs a day for several days. I should mention he as a programmable gizmo on his camera that can be set to take the shots at selected intervals.
To boost the power of an electronic flash for wildlife photography he recommended a Fresnel lens attachment from Better Beamer [$40]. It focuses the light just where you need it making the flash more efficient. It is good for both fill flash at long distances or where there is no ambient light. The downsides are that you may get 2 catchlights in the eyes and auxiliary power packs to run your camera or flash are very expensive. The extra catchlight can be removed in Photoshop. For long distances he recommends setting the flash 1 ½ stops less than the sky exposure—expose for the sky. This will look most natural. For closer subjects, the flash should be set 1-3 stops less than the ambient lighting.
For macro shots he preferred a twin light because the light positions are adjustable.
Don’t forget to use fill flash where appropriate.
Another new technique that is getting attention is “Extended Depth of Field”. This technique goes beyond what you can achieve with small apertures—front to back, everything is tack sharp. This of course requires software. Three that he has worked with are the AutoBlend Layers in Adobe Photoshop, Helicon Focus and Zerene Stacker. His preference is Zerene Stacker.
The technique requires you to take multiple shots of the subject gradually moving the focus from the fore to the mid to the back. Of course your on a tripod! Work with your best f/stop. For most lenses it’s f/8 or f/11, and possibly f/5.6. All exposures should be the same so manual is the way to go here. If the subject moves, it’s not going to work out.
In Photoshop, you would open all the shots as layers, auto align then auto blend.
Helicon Focus works better than PS but is an expensive additional program. In it, you must have areas of overlapping focus. He finds that Zerene Stacker is easier, better and I think is less expensive.
He’s also had success doing hand held depth series and combining them the same way though not for macro shots. He cautions that this is not a perfect technique.
He next covered “Macro” photography. His preferred macro lens is 100-105mm. He also recommended extension tubes with a regular lens. Putting a 25mm extension tube on a telephoto lens will allow you to focus closer to the subject. Or, use a 12mm tube on a wide angle lens to get a different perspective.
Another technique is to pair a tele-extender and a macro lens. For example, a 2x tele extender with a 180mm macro lens gives you 360mm and 2x magnification. Be sure your extender is matched to your lens. One caution is that you can lose some sharpness with a tele-extender but with a good lens this wont’ be noticeable.
Advice for shooting macros: Be sure to get a lot of different angles. Try to show something different from what everyone is used to seeing. It will hold their interest more. Think: closer, sharper, more colorful, different angle.
More techniques in another blog post coming up.