Op-Ed: Thoughts on Switching

Op-Ed: Thoughts on Switching

Last week, I posted Part V of my “Switch” series, which you can find here: Previously, in the Switch series: Part 1: I talk our marketing VP into letting me go Nikon for a while. Part 1.5: which was mislabeled Part 0.5, in which I gawk at a violin. Part II: The Nikon gets abusive. Part III: CLS starts to look pretty good. Part IV: In which I return to Canon for a spell. Part V: The conclusion, in which you learn what I ended up with. I’ve pretty-much laid out my reasons for switching, but I felt compelled to add some kind of postscript to that series. So, here it is. Switching from one platform to another isn’t easy. It kind of forces you to take a hard look at the platform you have and, if it isn’t working for you, you have to be willing to say, “Yeah, what I have now doesn’t work for me.” That takes a bit of humility to admit. It also takes a bit of firmness to say that a certain camera/computer/whatever isn’t working for you. It might work just fine for someone else. But it’s not working for you. On Facebook and Twitter and G+, the reaction to this series was largely positive. There was the usual plethora of “Gear doesn’t matter” posts, of course (to which I say, “No it doesn’t – except when it does.“), but for the most part, folks liked the series and they were generally supportive. I did, however, receive a verbal shellacking from some folks who know me personally and laid into me about this switch. The...
Get the Missing Manual for Light

Get the Missing Manual for Light

 With autumn upon us, daylight hours are fewer and further between. I don’t stop shooting (later sunrises mean I can actually drag myself out of bed at a better hour), but I do take more time to catch up on my reading. Accordingly, I spend some time to put together a list of the best photography books that I want to go through each year and will bring you reviews of the ones I liked the most. My (virtual) bookshelf is full of titles I’ve read or plan to read for reviewing or for personal edification. Some, like Brian Smith’s book on portraiture, which I reviewed earlier this week, are for personal edification and review. Some, like Light, Science, and Magic, are on there because the subject matter is of interest. And some are on there because I’ll read even an obituary by one of these authors. Authors like Joe McNally, for example, whose books like Sketching Light and The Moment it Clicks make for fantastic and entertaining reading. Others write books so chock full of information that they become indispensable reference material that I find myself going to pretty often. My friend Syl Arena is an author and teacher who falls into the latter category, and his latest book, Lighting for Digital Photography: From Snapshots to Great Shots is something that I think should be more appropriately titled “Light: The Missing Manual”. This is Syl’s second book; the first, The Speedliter’s Handbook, is now considered to be a sort of bible for Canon Speedlites. It is easily THE definitive book on Canon’s small flashes, and Syl has carved out...
The Switch – Moving from Canon to Nikon, Part V

The Switch – Moving from Canon to Nikon, Part V

This is the conclusion of a 5-part series on an experimental switch from Canon to Nikon. Previously, in the Switch series: Part 1: I talk our marketing VP into letting me go Nikon for a while. Part 1.5: which was mislabeled Part 0.5, in which I gawk at a violin. Part II: The Nikon gets abusive. Part III: CLS starts to look pretty good. Part IV: In which I return to Canon for a spell I guess the big question on everyone’s mind is, “Did you switch or not?” Well, read on, gentle reader. I’ve been a Canon user for the majority of my life. Starting at age 8 with a tiny Canon film point-and-shoot, then to an AE-1 Program, then an A2 film body, followed by a G3 P&S, a Rebel XTi, a 7D and then a 5D Mark II, I’ve owned Canon gear all my life. The Glass I love Canon gear. The glass is varied and plentiful, from a crazy 1:5 Macro  (the MP-E 65mm) to a swift, fast, yet affordable 400mm f/5.6 lens for wildlife, to a fantastic 135mm f/2 portrait lens, Canon has glass for practically every occasion. Nikon, on the other hand, kind of falls behind in terms of having glass that I really do need/use from time to time. The lack of a solid 400mm-range lightweight telephoto is a real bummer, as is the lack of an ultra-wide-angle (17mm) tilt-shift lens. Speaking of the tilt-shift lenses, Nikon really does need to update their PC-E lenses to match Canon’s 17mm and 24mm lenses. The current 24mm PC-E lens from Nikon doesn’t do independent rotation...
Powerful Inspiration for Powerful Portraits

Powerful Inspiration for Powerful Portraits

Portrait photography isn’t easy. Anyone can point a camera at a person and make a quick image. If you’re technically accomplished, you can even get your lighting spot-on and make a great-looking photograph. But the best portraits have an intangible quality to them that sets them apart. They have soul, that most overused yet accurate of words when it comes to describing photography. They speak to an innate part of the subject’s character, allowing the viewer to see not just what that subject looks like, but also what he or she is feeling and thinking. Brian Smith is one of those photographers who can pull this off, and do so with applomb. He is perhaps one of the most accomplished portrait artists working today, and his portfolio, which drips with celebrities ranging from Anne Hathaway to Richard Branson and then some, attests to that accomplishment. So it’s always with a lot of eagerness that I look forward to any kind of information – a book, video tutorial, whatever – from an artist like Brian. Fortunately for us, he has delivered a book on the subject of portrait photography, and what a whopper of a book it is. I’m going to start by telling you what this book is not. This is not a technical manual for your Canon or Nikon flashes. It’s not a thorough explanation of lighting or posing techniques. And it is certainly not an explanation of gear and how to use it. What it is, is something that David Hobby put it perfectly in his review of Brian’s book. “… you can pretty much think of SGPP as...
Lock it down

Lock it down

This is how the life of a photographer goes sometimes. You’re driving home on Highway 13, right around dusk. You glance off to your left and note that the moon, at an 8% crescent is going to set shortly, and it’s probably going to do so right behind the San Francisco skyline. So what do you do? Well, if you’re me, you step on it and race for Grizzly Peak Road, a scenic, meandering two-lane stretch of tarmac that winds through the hills above Oakland and Berkeley while offering some spectacular views of the Bay Area, including the Bay Bridge, the San Francisco skyline, Oakland, Berkeley, and sometimes, the Golden Gate Bridge, too. You get there, and you hastily pop your trunk, yanking out your lightweight carbon-fiber tripod and the 5D Mark III you’re shooting with. It’s cold, windy, and the moon is taking a nosedive, taking on a blood-orange color. The tripod’s legs fly open, and the 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II you’re using (the city is some distance away and using a telephoto lens to compress the distance will make the moon look nice and big, too) already has an Arca-Swiss-compatible plate on it that locks into your ballhead with a couple of twists. You flip on live view and adjust zoom and focus. Fortunately, the 5D Mark III has a top-notch focusing system and you lock focus on the Bay Bridge instantly. You set the camera’s timer to a 2-second delay, make sure everything is locked down, manual focus, and you press the shutter button, then step away. The mirror is already up because live view is...
The Switch – Moving from Canon to Nikon, Part IV

The Switch – Moving from Canon to Nikon, Part IV

This is Part IV of a series on moving from an all-Canon setup to an all-Nikon setup for four weeks. Will I go back to Canon at the end of four weeks? I have no idea… On this edition of “The Switch”, I took a brief sojourn back to Canonland with the 5D Mark III and a gaggle of Canon lenses. Previously, in the Switch series: Part 1: I talk our marketing VP into letting me go Nikon for a while. Part 1.5: which was mislabeled Part 0.5, in which I gawk at a violin. Part II: The Nikon gets abusive. Part III: CLS starts to look pretty good. Among the gear I picked up were the venerable 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II and the 100mm f/2.8L IS Macro lenses, two of Canon’s finest bits of glass. So: what was the experience like? I’d been using Nikon gear for weeks now, longer than the original 4 weeks slated for this experiment. I’d gotten used to the Nikon, and was expecting the process of going back to Canon to be a bit jarring. Back in Part 1 of this series, I’d said: It’s true. The D800 has more buttons than I expected. There is a physical switch for so many functions, from drive mode to metering mode to custom functions for the two front-facing buttons. On the Canon, I’m used to using the menu system and the LCD’s on the top and back of the body; so much of that is relegated to the buttons on the D800 body. So, going back to the Canon, I expected to fumble with the...
Kino Flo Celeb 200 DMX LED Lighting Kit

Kino Flo Celeb 200 DMX LED Lighting Kit

One of the newest lighting rigs we have here at BorrowLenses is the Celeb 200 LED from Kino Flo. The Celeb features 100 watts of lustrous, soft white light, which can be programmed to display a range between 2700K to 5500K, without changing the light output.

Get the Scoop on Fashion Photography

Get the Scoop on Fashion Photography

The world of fashion photography is an insular one, and newcomers to this field are often left floundering in more ways than one. From the basics of technique, to simple advice on how to break into the field, working with models, and managing and handling a business, aspiring fashion photographers often lack a decent starting point. The world of photographic instruction, on the other hand, is a pretty saturated one. There are so many instructors out there, yet every day, it seems like yet another photographer (or dozen) is jumping into the field of teaching photography to what seems like an ever-increasing number of prospective students. The cream, however, as they say, rises to the top. Every so often, we get a product that simply crashes through the noise and fills a particular niche. Back in 2009, Joe McNally did this with his book, Hot Shoe Diaries, bringing the mangled world of off-camera flash down to the masses. David Hobby of Strobist.com continued that trend, and since then, off-camera flash doesn’t seem as intimidating as it once did. Photographer Melissa Rodwell seems to have done something similar for the world of fashion photography. It started with her blog, FashionPhotographyBlog.com, which opened this sort of window into a field that had always been a bit hidden by opaque walls. That blog garnered a lot of attention, enough so that Scott Kelby of NAPP and Kelby Training fame named it one of his “Best of 2011” selections. While she’s been offering workshops for a little while now, Melissa Rodwell finally did what I’ve been hoping she’d do since I started following...
The Switch – Moving from Canon to Nikon, Part III

The Switch – Moving from Canon to Nikon, Part III

This is Part III of a series on moving from an all-Canon setup to an all-Nikon setup for four weeks. Will I go back to Canon at the end of four weeks? I have no idea… Previously, in the Switch series: Part 1: I talk our marketing VP into letting me go Nikon for a while. Part 1.5: which was mislabeled Part 0.5, in which I gawk at a violin. Part II: The Nikon gets abusive. In this part, I’m going to focus on just one thing: Nikon’s external flash system. CLS, you’re pretty cool Nikon’s CLS, or Creative Lighting System, is pretty well-known for its simplicity and reliability. On the Canon side, I’m used to working in ratios to set exposure between groups. This is a tad… unwieldy, to say the least. For example, if I want three groups for my external speedlites, I have to jump through some… convolutions. First, I have to have my friend Syl Arena’s book, The Speedliter’s Handbook handy, because Canon’s manual doesn’t really do even a halfway decent job of explaining this.  I have to set the ratio for my first two groups (A and B), then go into the master speedlite’s menu to set FEC (Flash Exposure Compensation) for my third light. Uh… wha? For a better explanation, go to page 144 of Syl’s Speedliter’s Handbook. With Nikon, on the other hand, you get this: This is if you’re using the on-board camera to control your remote speedlights (which are in two other groups, A and B). But you can, of course, control external speedlights with a master on-camera. Here’s what that...