Photo Tip of the Month – Fill Light To Reduce Contrast in the Mid-Day Sun

You’d be surprised how many people will ask, “Why are you using a flash? There’s plenty of light!”  Here’s how flash can help your mid-day photos.

Wagon of the Old West

A photo of a Wild West wagon, using a fill light to minimize the harsh contrast of the mid-day sun. Nikon D90, 18-200mm VR Nikkor lens, 18mm ISO 200 F/6.3.

You can’t always shoot photos during the “golden hours” (early morning, just before sunset).  And you may not always want this. Sometimes, you want to capture the look of something at mid-day.  But as anyone who has shot knows, this can create harsh light and harsh contrasts, particularly with subjects that are in the shade, as shown below:

Wagon with no fill light as an example

Our Wild West wagon with no fill light as an example of how mid-day sun can create harsh light and harsh contrasts in photos, particularly with subjects that are partially in the shade. Compare this with the other photo which uses the fill light.

So, what to do?  Use a flash as a fill light.

For this photo, I used a Nikon SB-600 Speedlight Flash in wireless mode.  I placed it down on the ground, just out of frame on the right side, facing up at the wagon, with a Sto-Fen Omni-Bounce OM-600 Flash Diffuser Unit to diffuse the light.  I like to use off-camera flash because I have more control over what area of the subject my flash lights (and if shooting portraits, it’s a great way to avoid getting demonic red eyes!).  Here’s another look at the photo using fill flash:

Wagon of the Old West

Have another look at the photo of a Wild West wagon, using a fill light to minimize the harsh contrast of the mid-day sun.  Nikon D90, 18-200mm VR Nikkor lens, 18mm ISO 200 F/6.3.

Equipment:  Nikon D90, Nikon 18-200mm VR II Nikkor Telephoto Zoom Lens, Nikon SB-600 Speedlight, Sto-Fen Flash Diffuser.

 

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Photo Tip of the Month – 5 Reasons Why Compact Cameras Rule

Five Reasons Why Compact Cameras Rule
I own a Leica DLux 4, although there’s a Panasonic equivalent, the Lumix DMC-LX3, which is considerably cheaper and has the same body and lens.  This camera does quite well in low light situations for a compact camera.  There’s also four thirds and interchangeable lens cameras, other high quality compacts, such as the Canon G11 or G12, and iPhones or other phone cameras which can take quality photos.  I always prefer to bring a compact camera when i travel.  And a lot of professional photographers will bring a compact camera with them when they are on assignment.  Here’s five reasons why:

1.  It Ain’t a Great Photo If You Don’t Take It.  If you don’t have your camera with you, you’re not going to get the shot.  But with a small camera that can fit in your pocket, you can always have it with you for those unexpected fantastic opportunities.

2.  Mobile and Spontaneous.  Clubs?  Hiking?  Street Photography?  Concerts?  It’s always with you.  Take it out, start shooting instantly, and even upload it to your Facebook page if your camera allows you to do so.

3.  Make People At Ease With Portraits.  People are often more at ease with smaller cameras than large SLRs.  They’ll relax more, perceiving the smaller camera as less “formal”.  And with most cameras being smaller than DSLRs, that can help quite a bit in getting your subject comfortable with your photography.

4.  “Macro” Photography.  A lot of smaller cameras can also focus on objects much closer.  This can be a lot of fun when doing quick photos of…well, just about anything, whether it’s flowers, animals, or every day objects, bringing a new perspective that your SLR may not be able to do unless it has macro lens.

5.  Safety.  With a small pocket camera, you are far less likely to attract attention.  You’re far less of a target for theft.  This quite possibly can save your life.

The Window

Good portraits can be taken with modest or small cameras, such as the one with a Brazilian girl, taken with a Leica D-Lux 4 (the same as a Panasonic DMC-LX3 – see link below) compact camera.  I can keep this in my pocket, perfect for the photographer on the go.

Paulinho of the pandeiro

Paulinho of the Pandeiro, Brazil. This photo illustrates a close-up low-light photograph that many high-quality compact cameras can achieve. Photographed with the Leica D-Lux 4 (the same as a Panasonic DMC-LX3 – see link below), which I kept in my pocket except for occasional photos, increasing my safety and people’s comfort level…perfect for the photographer on the go.

Equipment:  Nikon D90, 18-200mm VR Nikkor lens

Photo Link: Nikon D4’s Amazing Low Light Capabilities And Other Features

I’ve been receiving some information about the new flagship Nikon camera, the D4. here’s a link to the manufacturer’s website.  Every once in a while, I’ll link to something that may be of interest, and today, that’s the D4.

King of Low Light
One of the specs I’m most interested in is its low-light capability, with an ISO Range  of100-12,800 (extendable from 50 – 204,800).  I’m going to repeat that again.  204,800.  One can only hope that light sensitivity like this will eventually filter its way down to more affordable cameras for the rest of us.  In my opinion, this is one area where Nikon shines.  I think Canon offers more “bang for the buck”, but when Nikon is offering low light sensitivity like this, it’s difficult to look elsewhere for this price range.

Additionally, the D4 offers HDR, combining multiple images in-camera to produce images with increased dynamic range.  Obviously, other cameras that are considerably cheaper do this too, but something tells me that this’ll do it really darn well.

The D4 also has a giant new higher-resolution 16.2 megapixel CMOS sensor, but has also added a 91,000 pixel RGB 3D Color Matrix metering sensor that senses brightness and color, and supposedly interprets this with increased accuracy in color reproduction and balanced exposure.  And it adds face recognition, an appealing feature that is on many consumer cameras, but has often been left off cameras designed for professional use.

1080p HD Video
Probably the biggest, most obvious change is that Nikon has no doubt been noticing how well the  5D Mark II has been doing in the professional video market and wants to step it up.  Coupled with its fantastic low-light capabilities, The D4 captures HD 1080p video at various frame rates, easily suitable for broadcast quality video, and is capable of streaming the video out its HDMI port.

Field Monitor and Remote Capable Through iPad
Of some interest as well is that Nikon reports that the D4 is also iPhone/iPad compatible.  But what does this mean?  You can control the D4 via a web browser through your iPhone or iPad.  Nikon uses an HTTP protocol, meaning that with a Wifi or other internet connection, you can control the D4 remotely.  This could be handy for photographers or filmmakers who, say, have the camera attached to the top of a basketball backboard for sporting events, attached to a moving vehicle, or perched on top of a tree or crane.

The Sucky Part
I’ve seen on several reviews that due to the increased functionality of the camera, the battery life is lower.  However, Nikon has said that they are coming out with a new battery that promises better battery life.

Overall, this sure makes me wish I had US$6000.

Equipment:  I currently use a Nikon D90, 18-200mm VR Nikkor lens, and a 50mm f/1.4 lens.