The World is Your Light Modifier.

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(Candid from recent wedding, bounced off close ceiling to far left)

I loves me some Strobist. David Hobby has completely changed the popular conception of what your average photographer can do with flash light because of his dedication, creativity, and clear writing. But he said something once that made me gasp in horror, and I’ve been wrestling with it ever since — that the light you get when you bounce an on-camera flash off something all looks pretty much the same.

OK, I get what he’s saying. I love bounce flash because it’s convenient and allows me to provide decent light pretty much everywhere, but simple physics tells us that if your light source is large and far away (like, say, an entire illuminated patch of ceiling), then everything is going to be illuminated pretty much evenly. And, as Joe McNally keeps hammering home, if you want a scene to be as interesting as possible, don’t light all of it.

But the truth is that there are as many different flavors of bounced light as there are things to bounce off of. Want to control the light? Simple — get closer to your source (narrowing the spread). Kind of hard with ceilings, but pretty easy with walls. Want an instant tungsten gel on your light? Bounce your flash off of some wood. And, of course, there can be value in mixing a total, even fill of ceiling bounce with some more direct, Strobist-style light — evening out tones and lightening shadows. Heck, you can even get hard directional light if you’re near mirror-like surfaces.

It’s worth experimenting with. Try bouncing off of a really low ceiling and see what the challenges are — low-enough ceilings can give light almost as hard as direct flash. Then try bouncing off something really far away and see what settings work for you (try high ISO, low aperture, high shutter speed to start). See what the differences in light quality give you. Try walls, ceilings, even floors. Heck, I made do for an entire outdoor wedding by bouncing off of the trunks of palm trees. Go nuts.

On Timelessness

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Someone asked me recently, “Why are some people focused on creating ‘timeless images?’ Everything has a time and place. Weddings dresses get dated, hairstyles place you, so what is timelessness?”

It’s a fair question. Why avoid the major fads in wedding photography just because someone could look back at it and say “Oh, that was taken in 2009?” After all, you already know when the couple got married.

I guess the real question is: Will your images age well? Wedding photography is one of the few forms where it really, really matters what you’ll think of the photos in 30 years. No matter what changes technology makes, no matter what is hard now that will be easy then, people should feel good about their photos. And there are plenty of fads that make perfectly great photos — tilt-shift lenses come to mind.

But who can know the future? Why do we still love the classic tux after so many years but cringe when we see bell-bottoms? What the heck were wedding photographers thinking in the 80’s when they put couples heads in brandy glasses and floated parents’ heads over the ceremony? Well, it was hard to do then, so it was cool, and Uncle Bob couldn’t do it. But that, suffice to say, has aged poorly, while much older photography is still admired today. Try not to admire the work W. Eugene Smith did more than 60 years ago, among thousands of others of old masters.

We know exactly when the V-J Day kiss took place, but it still resonates strongly. So what’s the difference? I came up with an answer that seems as good to me as any:

“Moments are timeless; tricks may not be. And this comes from someone who knows a lot of tricks.”

Technology changes, cultural norms change, but emotions are emotions and images that convey real feeling may not be truly timeless, but they’ll age well.

(Photo at top: Remember Dana and Wes? That was an unposed moment. I was thinking about them today when I was listing clients who now have beautiful children).

Big Bad Voodoo Daddy!

I had a great time last night seeing Big Bad Voodoo Daddy at the Highline Ballroom with my friend and fellow photographer Rachel Kemble. I’ve always loved swing music — especially since, while having absolutely no talent for musical performance, I love to dance. We picked up some press passes from the staff, and I had fun shooting a lot of video with the Nikon D3s. I’ll cut it together properly after Christmas, but here’s a quick clip. I’m pretty impressed by the sound on the D3, since this was all with the built-in mic.

While I shot mostly video, of course I took a few photos. After the show the band had me set up a quick group shot. I had no flash and the stage was being broken down so I couldn’t use the stage lights as a backdrop, but figured the festive lights were a good accent for the end of their holiday tour.

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Rachel, shooting away
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