Notes from Puerto Rico

It’s my last full day in Puerto Rico, ending the first dedicated-to-relaxation vacatiom I’ve ever taken. That definitely has to change, since now I feel ready to shoot a billion or so weddings back to back with energy, vigor, and a bit more of normal-human flesh tone.

Thanks again to my assistant Thomas for taking care of the shop even while I’m away. I know the first week of January is slow in the Northern US, but it’s important to me to have my clients be able to be connected to us at all times.

As those who follow my Twitter or Facebook know, the trip has not been without mishap. Like Odysseus, I clearly got on the wrong side of the god of the sea, and he sent a freakishly large wave to swamp all of my shorebound equipment with a destructive mix of water, salt, and mud, so my friends at Adorama can expect a visit when I get back!

On the plus side, I spent the day taking some of my favorite fashion images I’ve ever taken, including one that may be my favorite I’ve ever seen! That one to come as soon as I get real Internet service.

(Since I’m generally my harshest critic, you can probably guess it’s a little … off.)

For quick snaps, I’ve been loving the TrueHDR and ProHDR apps for the iPhone. HDR is so often gaudy in photography, but it’s perfect to counteract the limited dynamic range of a camera phone to take pictures more like what you actually see. ProHDR has more features, but I like the simple functionality of TrueHDR better for snapshots. Here’s one of where I’m sitting now.

This is why I’ve been getting increasingly angry texts from all my frozen New York friends. Well, I’ll be sharing your misery soon!

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.

Well, that’s ONE way to fix a blown red channel

I’ve talked before about the creative possibilities of extreme white balance adjustments, and how the grey point controls on Nikon’s Capture NX2 provide the most extreme, high-quality control I’ve seen.

Well, I meant it.

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Particularly interesting is how all of that hard-to-retain red-channel on a red flower in hard sun came back and the textures are realistic even if the color is very much not.