14 Dec 2011

My Santa Set-up

Since the 5th of December I have been taking the typical Santa in the mall pics that we see every year! It's actually quite fun, but a lot of work as it has been crazy busy. While I have been there a lot of "pros" and amateurs alike have expressed an interest in my lighting set-up, how I do it, and why! It seems that the "strobist" concept hasn't caught on in South Africa the same way it has elsewhere in the world. So here is a short explanation and a few sample pics.

My basic setup is a couple of Nikon sb flashes, one sb700 and one sb600. I bounce both of these into umbrellas in order to diffuse the light and get a nice even lighting over the entire set. I use a shoot through umbrella and a black backed bounce umbrella, and the reason these two? Because it's what I have of course! If I used studio lights it would become much more complicated and require cables running electricity around for people to fall over, it wouldn't be as easy to unpack and pack, etc. Here is a pull back pic of the entire set-up:

There is a very large skylight directly above the area where we are located and the light coming in is constantly changing because of the sun moving, clouds, rain, etc. so in order to keep the light and colour consistant I totaly underexpose the scene by setting my camera to manual at 1/200s and f11. Without flash it looks like this:

My flashes are set to TTL and they automatically bring the exposure back up to normal. I fire them wirelessly via Nikons very cool CLS system. The final result looks like this:

Perfectly exposed, sharp, and with very consistant colour! I don't have time to download these to a computer, tweak them and then print them, so I shoot jpg and make sure that all my settings are correct in camera to achieve the fastest workflow and print them directly from my SD cards at the lab in the mall. The resultant prints are just great!

So if you want to put that nice shiny new dslr to good use and actually make some money to justify the expense then you now know how to do Santa pics for Christmas 2012! Whoohoo!

13 Dec 2011

Todays Coffee!

At the end of a long hot day shooting kids with Santa in Mall@Reds, it just makes the day a little better, one of lifes pleasures! A "Serious Cappucino" from Mugg and Bean.

Nikon D90, Aperture Priority, Nikon 40mm f2.8 Micro, 1/250s, f3.0, ISO200, hand held.

5 Dec 2011

It's Christmas Season Again!

Which means it's time for Christmas photos at the mall again!

This year my very talented wife painted some backdrops for me and I am taking photos at the Mall@Reds in Pretoria from the 5th until the 24th of December. She also sewed all the costumes for the kiddies to dress in that you can see on the table in the photo below.

Here is a basic setup shot:

And what the final result looks like:

There is also a "Fantasy Forest" backdrop and a typical Christmas Manger scene.

Merry Christmas everybody!

16 Nov 2011


Another day another product shoot!

Nikon D90, manual mode, 200ISO, f11, 1/200s, Nikon 50mm f1.8D, Nikon sb700 and sb600 bounced in umbrellas left and right high. Set-up shot below.

Stock card seamless white background held up against the wall by duct tape. No photographer should ever be without duct tape!

This would have worked much better with a light tent... but I don't have one. Someone recently told me that photography is about problem solving, so sometimes you just gotta make a plan!
Note to self: get a light tent...

6 Nov 2011

A step into the not so distant past...

Who would have thought at the time that just a few years later Kodak would have abandoned slr's forever!

Check out this article about the then brand new and top of the line DSLR from Kodak: DCS 760 delivers crisp, clear photos.

1 Nov 2011

Portraits in small places

So you don't have a studio, and the wife won't let you convert the spare room either, and the garage is full of junk, so what to do to be able to use that shiny dslr and the speedlights you got for Christmas last year and you've been itching to put to good use? Well you make some compromises and improvise. I have been living in a small apartment for the past year and don't have much space, but I can still setup my lights for a two light pic like the one below:

Here is how I set it up:

By using the curtains as a backdrop and squeezing the lights in between couches and side tables I managed to get a fairly good two light portrait set-up. Behind the model is my Strobist DIY Beauty Dish on a tripod. To the right and high is a shoot through umbrella on my junky tripod converted to super cool light stand. Nikon sb600 in the beauty dish and sb700 in the umbrella, both triggered via Nikons very cool CLS system. Easy peasy!

20 Oct 2011

Studio session with a Famous Fashion Icon!

Probably the most recognized face on the planet, and for all the wrong reasons. If you would like to practice portrait lighting setups on a small scale Barbie is your girl though! She doesn't charge much, she is very co-operative and always has a friendly smile. Oh, and she never complains about working long or odd hours.

Here is my small scale studio set-up:

The light on the left is my Strobist DIY Beauty Dish draped in a swathe of thin white material that basically turns it into a small softbox.

The Barbie doll was set into a cake and decorated for a 6 year olds birthday party.

4 Oct 2011

Portrait of a Man

The eyes are the windows to the soul, and in photography we can capture that part of the reflection of the human soul for all the world to see. Isn't it all the more important then to make sure that all of our photographic skill is focused on capturing a persons eyes first and foremost and deal with the rest of the person as being only secondary to a successful portrait?

26 Sept 2011

Bowl of Rice

And below the set-up shot for "Bowl of Rice".

Normally I would try to get rid of the light spill from the flash shooting into the umbrella, but in this case it actually helped with the light I was trying to achieve by reflecting some light from slightly behind the subject.

Nikon D90, Nikkor 50mm f1.8D, f4.5, 1/200s, Nikon sb700 flash shot through a white umbrella with the wide angle flash diffuser out, hand held.

19 Sept 2011

Assortment of E6 slide film for sale

I recently sold off my beloved film cameras (except for the Olympus Trip 35) and so I am letting my film stock go as well. If you are in South Africa and interested in 35 rolls of expired but frozen for years film then drop me a note at thephotophile@gmail.com and we can make arrangements for delivery. There is Provia, Velvia 50, Kodak EPR 64, etc. The works for only R300!

The usual set-up shot follows:

4 Sept 2011

Olympia Express

Nikon D90, Aperture Priority, hand held with VR on, 0.25s, f8.0, 18-105mm kit lens at 18mm, Auto White Balance, edited in Corel Paint Shop Pro X3.

Swing and Puke

Nikon D90, Shutter Priority, hand held with VR on, 0.5s, f5.6, 18-105mm kit lens at 18mm, Auto White Balance, edited in Corel Paint Shop Pro X3.

3 Sept 2011

Snr. Puke Machine

Nikon D90, Aperture Priority, hand held with VR on, 0.0769s, f8.0, 18-105mm kit lens at 18mm, Auto White Balance, edited in Corel Paint Shop Pro X3.

2 Sept 2011

Jnr. Puke Machine

Nikon D90, Aperture Priority, hand held with VR on, 0.25s, f8.0, 18-105mm kit lens at 18mm, Auto White Balance, edited in Corel Paint Shop Pro X3.

31 Aug 2011

Two Speedlight Portrait

So I have been trying to lure another victim into my photographic snare solicit another eager and willing volunteer to try out a slightly edgy looking two speedlight portrait when I spotted my son Ben in an ACDC t-shirt looking very much like an 18 year old and I conned asked him to pose for me. Of course he was a little reluctant very eager to please as always and jumped to the opportunity to be featured on my blog!

Nikon D90, manual mode, 18-105 kit lens, zoomed to 105mm, f22, 1/200s, ISO200, Nikon sb600 to camera left and behind Ben shot bare and sb700 camera right with shoot through umbrella with both fired wirelessly via Nikon's nifty CLS system. Edited in Corel Paint Shop Pro X3 (which is going for a bargain price right now btw!).

Toyota LandCruiser FJ62 4X4 Station Wagon

I am selling my trusty Toyota LandCruiser FJ62 4X4 Station Wagon.

Well looked after. Motor professionally redone last year by Toyota SA. Comes with bull bar, roof carrier, high lift jack, 4x metal Jerry Cans, full alarm/immobilizer/anti-hijack system, Dobinsons shocks and springs all around, recovery strap, window tinting and cd/radio. The "real deal" for overland travel through Africa!

If you are in the market for a good used 4X4 (and you live somewhere in Southern Africa!), then send me an email at thephotophile@gmail.com

And just in case you are interested, here is the obligatory set-up shot, it is a photography blog after all!

Nikon D90, 18-105 kit lens, taken in the middle of the day but in shade, zoomed to 52mm, manual mode, f8.0, 1/200s, ISO200, Nikon sb600 camera right and sb700 camera left fired wirelessly via Nikon's uber cool CLS system. I underexposed the shot a slight bit and let the flashes sort out their own exposure themselves via iTTL, this had the effect of a darker background which made the vehicle stand out. Isn't technology wonderful!?

16 Aug 2011

Still Life - Taken with a Nikon F801s

An old photo taken with a Nikon F801s and a junky Quantaray 35-80 zoom, in the late afternoon sun. This was my first attempt at a still life just after I had bought my very first SLR. While not a great photo in technical and artistic terms, it still holds a special place for me.

13 Aug 2011

Seamless White Background - How To

Just in case anybody was wondering how complicated it is to do a seamless white background product photo shot like the one below, I have included a shot at the bottom of this post to show how simple it can be done.

...and the promised setup shot:

Really not complicated at all! The flash was triggered via Nikon's cool CLS system. The groovy light stand is explained at another post here.

12 Aug 2011

Orange Stack

Nikon D90, 18-105mm kit lens, manual settings, 1/60s, f16, ISO 200, SB600 flash bounced into an umbrella from camera left and a little high, white cardboard sheet against a wall to provide a seamless background, edited in Corel Paintshop Photo Pro X3.

11 Aug 2011

Dining Room in Totius House, Potchefstroom, South Africa

Taken with the amazing Olympus Trip 35 on Ilford XP2 Super 400 film, developed at local lab and scanned on my CanoScan 5600F. The camera wouldn't let me take the pic because the light was too low, so I took it off auto and set it to f2.8 and voila! Got the photo anyway! I think it looks moody.

Also featured on the Olympus Trip 35 Cult blog.

4 Aug 2011

“It is one thing to photograph people. It is another to make others care about them by revealing the core of their humanness.” - Paul Strand

A portrait is not a likeness. The moment an emotion or fact is transformed into a photograph it is no longer a fact but an opinion .... All photographs are accurate. None of them is the truth. - Richard Avedon

16 Jul 2011

Pentax Z-10

New toy, YAY! I will post photos and a basic rundown of how I like, or don't, this Pentax Z-10. I can already see that the power zoom is going to be a PITA.

12 Jul 2011


Nikon D90, Nikkor 35mm f1.8, 1/100s, f2.0, ISO 200, hand held, giant lightbox in the sky (read cloudy).

30 Jun 2011

Hi, my name is Lanthus and I'm addicted to coffee...

...but it's a good addiction right? And besides I can give it up any time I like! I rule the coffee...
                                                        ...wanna go for a cuppa?

11 Jun 2011

Not the 50mm f1.8!

After all the trumpet blowing for the Nikon 50mm f1.8 I decided to shoot the following portrait with the 18-105mm cheap plastic mount kit lens that comes with a lot of Nikon crop sensor cameras as part of the bundle. It was shot as wide open as it could go at 105mm, which is f5.6, hand held in natural light with VR on. I think the results are very acceptable.

Post processing was done in Corel Paint Shop Pro X3.

31 May 2011

Break Those Damn Rules!

Who made up the rules, and why do we have to follow them?

A friend, and long time pro photographer, looked at my portrait photography last year and the first thing that struck him was that I often didn't use the traditional method of framing single person portrait photographs and mostly used "landscape" instead. It got me to thinking about why we have rules at all in photography. Quite often in our attempts to follow these rules (rule of thirds etc.) we make dull, boring, yawn, the same as all the other, yuck, please shoot me now, looking photos and sometimes when we inadvertantly break the rules the result is quite pleasing, and a breath of fresh air to me.

Maybe we should discard the rules and strike out to make photographs that stir the human soul instead. Can emotion ever have a formula? Heck, I want a photo to move me in some way. It should either make me happy, or sad, or nostalgic, or angry, or any damn thing but impressed with how well the photographer has handled the technical aspect of his mundane subject so well.

I would feel a lot more righteous about all of this if I didn't fall into the same trap myself on such a regular basis... oh well, back to the drawing board.

28 May 2011

Strobist DIY Beauty Dish Portrait

Taken with my Strobist DIY Beauty Dish. I fire the Nikon SB600 wirelessly in the Strobist DIY Beauty Dish by raising the D90's onboard flash and using it as the commander. By setting the onboard flash at minimum power it has the added advantage of raising the light in the shadow side of the models face just a slight bit.

25 May 2011

My Genuine German Beer Mug!

My step daughter in London picked this up for me at a boot sale and sent it to me in South Africa. It's simply the best Christmas present ever! It still says W-Germany on the bottom so it must be fairly old, and although used it's still in great condition.

It might just be me, but a beer certainly seems to taste better when I drink it out of this classy mug!