Tools: Sun Locator App

Hallo und willkommen zum heutigen Blogpost,

heute möchte ich allen Fotografen unter euch gerne ein sehr hilfreiches Tool vorstellen, mit dem ihr den Stand der Sonne auf eurem Smartphone simulieren könnt – SUN LOCATOR.

SUN LOCATOR ist das perfekte Tool, um den Sonnenstand (und Mondstand) vorherzusagen, auf Datum und Uhrzeit genau. Dabei legt SUN LOCATOR einen Layer über das Bild eurer Smartphone-Kamera, so dass ihr ablesen könnt, wo die Sonne zum geplanten Shooting-Termin stehen wird bzw. wann ihr on location sein müsst, um die Goldene oder Blaue Stunde zu erwischen.

Hier ist ein Beispiel Screen eines geplanten Shootings vom 9. April gegen 19 Uhr. Die Sonne stünde hier so tief, dass das Licht schön warm sein und durch die Bäume fallen würde. Das ganze ließe sich auch für jedes andere Datum und jede beliebige Uhrzeit simulieren.

 

  Hier noch mal eine andere Ansicht des SUN LOCATOR. Diese Ansicht zeigt den Einfluss der Sonne und endstehende Schatten auf einer Landkarte (Google Maps). Eignet sich hervorragend, wenn man in einer bestimmten Gegend fotografieren will, weil man dort mehrere Locations hat.

Alles in Allem ein absolut praktisches Tool für jeden, der ernsthaft fotografiert.

SUN LOCATOR könnt ihr via Google Play oder im iStore als Lite oder Pro beziehen. Die Lite-Version ist kostenfrei und beinhaltet bereits die relevantesten Funktionen.

Viel Spaß und Gut Licht! 🙂

 

==========READ IN ENGLISH =====================

Hi and welcome to this blog post,

Today I’d like to introduce a really nice and absolutely helpful tool for all serious photographers to you – the SUN LOCATOR App.

SUN LOCATOR is the perfect tool to forecast the position of the sun (and moon). Especially for sunrise and sunset photo shoots it’s ideal. It allows you to set the time of your planned shoot and layers the simulated sun over your camera smartphone screen. Just aim the location with your smartphone camera, adjust the time that you plan to make the photo shoot, see the app simulating the sun and read where the sun will be located at that time.

Here’s an example for a planned shoot in the woods. I went there at 6 p.m. and used SUN LOCATOR to simulate where the sun would be located for a shoot at 7 p.m. on April 9th. This would also work for “where will the sun be located at this spot at 8 p.m. on July 13th?” etc. Pretty cool! Now you can plan your moody photo shoots way ahead and go in with confidence.  

Above you see another view of SUN LOCATOR. It shows the impact of the sun and resulting shadows on Google Maps. Very useful if you plan to have a photo shoot in a wider area.

There are two versions of SUN LOCATOR, lite and pro. The lite version is already pretty good and for free.

Just check Google Play or your iStore to get it!
Have fun an good light! 🙂

True Words

Hi everybody and welcome to a short blog post about how camera gear can influence your success.

When I read my G+ stream this morning I saw a post from Lisa Bettany who wrote something about “not to be limited by the camera gear you own”.
On January the 10th she also wrote something similar linked with a success story of herself. When she started photography with an Canon Rebel DSLR she experimented a lot and shot a backlit cowboy during sunset. She published the image on flickr.com and a year later Lisa got a request by Penguin which wants her image for a book cover.
So, the quintessence is, that she took an experimental photo with entry-level camera gear which got published on a book cover of a Penguin Readers book.
That’s cool, isn’t it?

I can confirm such kind of success with entry-level gear. When I was new to DSLR in 2005, I shot and experimented a lot, too. I started with an entry-class NIKON D70s and cheap but good SIGMA lenses. I went out there in the woods and nature to take great images. While I was walking around and looking for a nice scene, I took notice of a sunlit forest path. The whole scene was backlit and the sun glanced through the branches and flood the path with warm yellow light. I composed a bit then pressed the shutter.
Someday I found a postcard publisher on the net and decided to sent them a few of my images, maybe they would use one for their postcards. A few months later I got a reply from them that they want to use the “sunlit forest path” image for a postcard. Finally, this image got published as a postcard and was distributed in Germany.

As you can see, success doesn’t has to do that much with high-end camera gear. Of course, you cannot cover a fast sports action scene in a dark gym with just a 3 frames per second, noisy ISO 3200 entry-camera and a 18-50mm f3.5-5.6 kit-lens and expect high-class images. Just use your gear in fields that it is suitable for. And use it as effectively as it is possible to cover the best images possible.

And Lisa’s G+ post contains another good tip: If you really need high-end gear for a job, you can always rent it.

Think about it. As a photographer you always have to think of profitability aspects, too.

Have a nice weekend!

Bye!
Chris

This was 2011!

Hi and welcome to my first blog post for 2012!

I hope you had great holidays!

So, what’s up? At the moment I’m working on my Bachelor Thesis in General Management. I will graduate in March, hopefully. 😉
Well, more about the prospects of 2012 in one of the upcoming blog posts …

Today let’s look back on my photographic aspects of 2011.

2011 I began with a new approach: “Going professional.”

In 2010 I already sold a lot of things that I wouldn’t need anymore. From the proceeds I bought photo gear. While the 4th quarter of 2010 paved the way for this approach, with new photo gear, methods and ideas, now it was time to put it into action.

Therefor I started my own flash photography project. This should help me to practice the usage of flash in the field.
I was almost obsessed by using flash and available light in the best way possible just to move on from that dull looking amateur photos – in order to create photos that have that professional clean look.  It’s bad, but I never really mind the light – until now. Like Dave Black says: “Light is the greatest influence.” And he’s absolutely right. It’s so obvious that light MUST be the greatest influence because photography means “drawing with light”! So why don’t we use the light to create awesome “light paintings”? This was the first thing I had to realize before I could go on.

I read lots of books and blogs of professional photographers all year and analyzed their photos. That help me to increase my knowledge while the regular shooting increased my practical skills. I learned the theory than went out into the field to practice until I got acceptable results. It was that easy, indeed.

 

SPORTS
I started my personal flash training with shooting sports. Therefor I asked the local sports clubs if it is possible to take pictures during the training. This also helped me to learn something about the planning of shoots and making arrangements. It was not always that easy to cover a training session or even a game. It needs so many permissions that it is really elaborating to establish a shoot. Often coaches are skeptical toward using flash because they think it could disturb the athletes. So, it needed some cogency to arrange a shoot. But it was worth the effort.
Finally, I shot several indoor and outdoor sports like swimming, motocross, track and field, handball, basketball and football during the year. My favorite sport was motocross. Since I went to the first motocross race with my uncle in 1989  I like it. It was always fun to watch it, but to shoot it was much better! As I shot it the first time and saw the results I was amazed! The results were awesome! I made a quantum leap from dull amateur pictures to high-quality professional images.

I also used professional off camera flash solutions and techniques to realize high-quality images in extreme dark gyms. This effort helped me to contrast from competitors once more. Now I’m ranking  a bit higher in the Mount Olympus of our local sports photographers. 😉

 

 

 

 

 

PHOTOJOURNALISM

Thanks to all these flash tips I got from the pros and the intense training, also my press photos became better. The coverage of the opening of the MUNA museum for example was just fun to cover. Shooting indoors with flash was suddenly easy-going!

 

 

 

 

 

In June the village in which I’m living was underwater because of heavy rainfalls and a dried out soil. When I woke up from a short breathing pause and glanced out of the window on that evening,I saw how the water had flood the meadows in front of our house. It also flood the households near the river. I grabbed the camera and covered this disaster. I sent the photos to the local newspaper immediately. Finally, the German Press Agency (dpa) bought them and the next day I found my photos in well known German newspapers and online magazines. On one hand a success for me, but on the other hand a flooded village. That’s life.

 

 

 

 
COMMERCIAL
Commercial photography was another very interesting thing I did in 2011.
I love the clean look of commercial images and wanted to know more tricks about commercial photography. My sports images had already a commercial look so I used these techniques to create car shots. I also searched the web for great car photographers. Studying their photos helped me to get similar results in my own style.

 

 

 

EDITORIAL and PORTRAITURE

I also acted in the field of editorial and portraiture in 2011. Well, I nearly got through every field of photography that I’m interested in. Portraiture was the most difficult. I tried many lighting setups and read Joe McNally’s Books that helped and inspired me a lot.
This portrait of a bassist was some kind of elaborating. I shot one flash through a window on the 2nd floor, another one through an umbrella from the camera left and a third one I used as contour light from the camera right. I gelled all flashes wit a CTO (except the contour light) to create a sunset look.

Another highlight was my first Engagement Shoot with Timo and Jessica in November. They asked me if I could take nice pictures of them for their marriage invitation cards. And so I did.
They wanted the shoot to be in the nature, so I looked for nice places around our house and found some. For the whole shoot I used flash and 300mm to 600mm lenses to create a smooth background that doesn’t distract from the couple. With a fresh and bright style the images looked great for an invitation card of a happy event like a marriage.

 

 

 

CONCERT

Okay, now we are coming toward the end of my 2011 flash experience. Concerts. At Eaze hired me to cover one of its shows in October. I know the band since 2008 and covered a lot of their shows, so I had the possibility to use flash for the coverage. This wasn’t my first try to use flash in a concert, but it was the first one with an professional approach. Off camera flash helped me to keep the disturbing low, to create clean images and to reveal important subjects like the drummer and the audience. At Eaze loved the results and that’s so much honor. Thanks.

 

 

 

NATURE

From August to September I shot Ospreys at the reservoir and this was the only field of photography where I didn’t use flash. But I will. It’s an elaborating project for this year. I will also use remote cameras to capture unique moments of wildlife. This project will be hilarious – I’m sure.
I went several times to the reservoir nearby to capture Ospreys while they are hunting fish. The problem was: A focal length of 600mm was much to short to get close-ups. Well, seems like I have to rent a larger lens next time – maybe 800mm and use it with a teleconverter. However, the hours at the reservoir were the most extensive photography moments of 2011. I loved the silence and the opportunity to watch some kind of wildlife that people around don’t really notice. Local nature has plenty to offer you just have to look for it. Also photos of mushrooms in the wood can look professional if using fill flash.

 

 

 

 

 

Finally, I learned a lot about using flash and creating interesting scenes and therefor created fantastic images. I learned to use the light because “Light is the greatest influence.”. And I learned that if you want to learn something about photography you better ask the pros. Forums are a great thing to exchange experiences, but you should never use a forum to learn photography. Ask the pros, buy their books, go to professional workshops and practice what you have learned! That’s the best way.

Well, this was my review of 2011. A year of flash photography. A year with a professional approach. A year with much better images than the years before. A year of personal success in terms of photography. So, let’s see what we can do for 2012. 🙂

I wish all of you the best for 2012!

Bye!
Chris

Shooting Car Interiors – In An Improvised Studio

Hi and welcome to this blog post about how to shoot a commercial-like car interior photo in an improvised studio.

! Before I will come to the topic, I want to note that I will publish blog posts in a regular basis from now on – every 1st and 3rd Sunday of a month.

Okay, lets start.

A few month ago, I made my first try on car photography in a more professional and commercial-like way.
Except that I love to drive cars and think that tuning them discreetly is necessary I’m not a real car fan. However, my interest on this field of photography grew because of my ambition to shoot portraits of people in a context to their interests. I started with my grandpa and his 1956 BMW motorcycle and when my cousin Anna-Lena will get her drivers license I also want to take a photo of her and her first car etc. I don’t just want to take an usual photo but something special. To me that “something special” is a commercial-like looking image – shot with professional techniques and camera systems to get high-quality. That’s my approach in all fields of photography that I’m active in. I just love that commercial look and the high-quality.

After I shot an Audi A4 from outside a few months ago, I wanted to take an interior shot this time. Therefor I used a 5er BMW.

At the Audi shoot I recognized that I would need a much bigger white surface to bounce off the flash to flood the car with 5000K warm light.
For the interior shot I built an improvised studio in the garage. The garage was renovated a few years ago and is shiny white now. Because I only wanted to shoot the cockpit of the BMW I would only need three white walls that surround it. I hung up a white plastic blanket to hide the work bench and to have also a plain white surface in front of the car.


Finally, I had three white walls to bounce off the flash to illuminate the car interior with diffuse light.
The wrinkles on the blanket don’t matter because the flash will lighten it up so strong that you won’t see any of the wrinkles in the final image.
Then I drove in the car and began to mount the Nikon Speedlights. I mounted one Speedlight on every roof rail and adjusted it so that its light would bounce off the ceiling and wall. A third Speedlight I just set in the middle of the car roof – it would illuminate the ceiling and blanket in front of the car. Finally, the cockpit would be illuminated from all three sides by a diffuse light.


In the next step, I set up the camera inside the car on the back seat. To have more working space I expanded the trunk by turning down the back seats.
I used a small tripod and arranged it in the right position – in the middle of the car.
To control the Speedlights I used the Nikon SB-800 Commander and set them to manual power. The Speedlights on the left and right were set to group A and the one in the middle to group B – all with an power output of 1/1 and zoomed to 14mm to spread the light as much as possible to flood the cockpit with soft 5000K warm light.
My Nikon D3 was also set to manual mode and I used a Tamron 10-24mm/4.5-5.6 lens.


I thought it would take a bit more of lighting arrangement but right after the second shot the whole shoot was done. Here’s the result:


Very commercial-like.
The white windows an mirrors are easy to select with the Photoshop “Magic Wand Tool” to insert a scenery or whatever.

I gave it a try and inserted the Skyline of Frankfurt am Main, Germany.


However, the next time I will create a 100% realistic car interior image without photoshopping the windows and mirrors …
So, maybe you want to turn your garage into a car studio now, too … Have fun!

Bye!
Chris

Shooting Live Music

Hi everybody and welcome to this blog post!

Last Saturday was the X-th school festival of the ASS secondary school. At Eaze, a young modern hard-rock band that I met in 2008, hired me to cover their gig.
I shot them the first time in early 2008 at a music contest for the local newspaper. After my photos were published, I received an e-mail of their manager – he told me that the band saw my images in the newspaper and that they would love them. Finally, he asked me if I want to cover the band’s upcoming shows. I accepted. That was the beginning with At Eaze.
I covered many of their shows since 2008. Now, after three and a half years I’m recognizing that these musical kids I shot in 2008 became young adults who are applying for A-level and run a great band that published its first album. To me this is a fascinating process. The whole coverage of their gigs over the years does show an evolution – a change from kids to young adults. Although they had several drummers and members over the years the band never broke up. Its core was always formed by Laura and Kevin (right).

At Eaze 2008

After I shot them the last time in October 2010 they hired me again on Saturday.

Well, back to the topic. Shooting live music is a hard business. You have to fight against very low-light conditions, different light quality, colored light, blinking light, varying lights/light intensity/light colors, fast motion, loud music etc. You also have to cover the best moments during the first three songs (professional bands) or the whole show (amateur bands).
When I started  doing concert photography I thought technical correctness would be the point but it isn’t. It’s just a part of a greater whole. As always: The most important thing is to capture the moment. It doesn’t matter if there’s a bit of motion blur as long as if you have captured the special moment.

There are many types of shooting styles for concert photography and I prefer a clean one. That means that I want a clean image that’s technically perfect in terms of light, noise, motion blur and color. When I’m using effects like motion blur I’m using them purposely. Motion blur only makes sense if you’re using a flash. Because only the flash allows you to stop the action and to create a sharp image followed by motion blur. Without a flash the whole scene is blurred and hard to identify.

But using flash isn’t always allowed. At professional concerts for example flash usually isn’t allowed. There is an advice – or even rule – that every security guard gives you before you enter the photographer’s pit: „Three songs, no flash!“
At an amateur gig you would have to ask the band before you’re going to use flash. The problem is that there are so many photographers who don’t understand the correct use of a flash. They’re disturbing bands by shooting the flash directly at full power and blinding the artists on stage. Therefore it’s intelligible that many bands don’t like flash.

Is there a less noticeable way to use flash at concerts? Yes, I think so.


Step one:
Prepare the camera for available light conditions

In terms of a clean image I need a high ISO that causes an acceptable noise. It depends on the camera you’re using how extreme the noise will be at high ISO. I’m using a Nikon D3 and my limit is ISO 3200. After I set the ISO I proceed with the f-stop and shutter speed settings. The f-stop should always be at its lowest, e. g. f2.8. Finally, I have one variable left that I can change – the shutter speed. Here I’m using the following approximate rule:

Max. shutter speed that doesn’t cause blur = reciprocal of (1/focal length in mm)

That means that if I’m using a 50mm lens, I need a minimum shutter speed of 1/50s (on an FX sensor camera) to prevent blur that’s caused by shaking while holding the camera. If I cannot realize this shutter speed because it’s too dark, I have to use a monopod or a higher ISO. Otherwise I just raise the shutter speed.
For concerts I set the camera always to manual mode and matrix metering. I also make some test shots to find the correct exposure. It’s very easy if there’s just one parameter to adjust especially when the light intensity is varying. Mostly I’m working in a range around 1/60s and 1/250s because it’s not only shaking myself, but also the movement of the musicians that has to be considered.


Step two:
Adding flash

The goal is to combine the ambient light and the flash light in a way that finally no one will recognize that you used a flash.
To get started I would recommend to set the flash on the lowest power level available. Use a dome diffuser and let the light bounce off the ceiling (or a similar white surface like a bouncer card – whatever). Use the available light camera setting and make some test shots to adjust the flash.
If the flash power is too low don’t raise it too much! It’s better to blend in more available light than pushing the flash power. Remember: You don’t want to blind or disturb the band. If the flash is too bright, use a higher f-stop.
Always remember:

The shutter speed adjusts the intensity of the available light; the f-stop adjusts the intensity of the flash.

The goal is to find the correct mix of available light and flash light. Finally, no one should recognize that you are using a flash or that you have used a flash.

When you’re using a flash some color shifting may appear. That’s because the flash produces a color temperature of 5000K which is very similar to daylight, but the spotlights maybe produce a warmer light of 5000K plus. The solution for this is a warming gel that warms the flash light so that it will fit more to the color temperature of the spotlights.

Examples:

#1 Reveal the Drummer
Here is an example where I used a flash to reveal the drummer from darkness. It’s a well known problem that drummers mostly sink in darkness, especially at amateur concerts. That’s also the reason why many photographers don’t shoot the drummer of a band.
In this image I mounted a flash on a mike stand in front of the drummer. It looks like a white spotlight illuminates him but actually it’s a flash that reveals him from darkness.


#2 Reveal the Audience
Another problem is that the audience often sinks in darkness, too. But the audience is an important factor because it shows emotion and gives the viewer a feedback of how good the band played and how it influenced the audience. Finally, a happy audience is a quality indicator for a band. So reveal it from darkness to show how good the band is on stage.


Conclusion:
It’s possible to shoot concerts with flash. The advantages are that it can reveal important people from darkness like the drummer and the audience. It also helps to clean the noise of high ISO and to influence the light quality and light color. Disturbing the band with flash is an absolutely no go! Get familiar with the correct use of your flash and your camera. Blend the flash and available light in a way that no one recognizes the flash – neither during the gig nor after the gig when viewing the images.
If a band forbids the use of a flash accept it and draw on your skills and equipment to shoot in available light situations. Good luck!

Bye!
Chris

Portable Solutions

Hi there!

I really like the opportunities of modern photography. There are a lot high-tech and great mounting solutions available for photographers nowadays.

An example:
Today I was looking for a portable flash solution for such as sports coverage. To shoot high-quality sports images in gyms it needs good light. And what provides good light in dark gyms with little available light? You said it! Strobes.  These strobes have to be mounted up high under the ceiling to create a good illumination. Here one needs a small portable solution because there’s often not that much time (especially here in Germany) and opportunities to make an extensive installation with wires all over the place. So I assembled a flash thing which can be mounted easily and nearly everywhere. The mounting basis is a SuperClamp. I equipped it with two Spigots, two Novoflex P19, two SB-800s, a Black-Box and a RadioPopper receiver. Finally, it needs just a few turns to mount the SuperClamp and a few turns to adjust the SB-800s in the right angle. Really easy to use and effective for sports coverage in small halls.

It’s just an application example. There are tons of other possible applications – I’d say it’s like Fisher Price. Built this or that with one and the same parts.
I love it!

Bye!
Chris