Monday, 5 February 2018

Keith Robins Photography explores black glass reflections.

Glass will produce a reflection if the far side is dark and black is about as dark as it gets. Being a building repairman means I often have bit of glass lying around from windows, patio doors, or shower cubicles with the last two being toughened.
Cleaning one side of the glass is worth doing really well before spraying with black paint. We don't want any dust spots sealed between spray and glass.

Two coats is enough to give a longlasting scratch resistant finish. When dry, turn it over to reveal a perfectly smooth shiny black mirror that will be the base for my product photography for years to come.

Now let's find a few items to photograph. I choose a bottle and a large glass into which a plastic rose is placed, the last two are both painted with a matt white spray from B&Q a DIY retailer at £9

A scrap kitchen base unit mounted on a couple lengths of square plastic rainwater pipe instead of legs means I can slide the whole thing around my studio without effort, a larger than normal top gives a table sized area for my product/still life photography.
I lay the black glass on the tabletop and drape a black cloth beyond for a background.

To create a background support a pair of woodworking clamps are clipped on and 3 foot long plastic overflow pipe at 22mm diameter is slipped over the metal ends for uprights. On top are two 'Tee' joints. A length of 15mm copper pipe slids easily through the two tee joints and supports my black cloth background. It can also hold tracing paper, a bamboo curtain, a roll of white wallpaper, thin scrim, a Venetian blind, etc.

Camera on tripod set to F16 for a good depth of focus plus it gives me chance to wave a torch a at my subject. ISO 200 and 20 seconds seems to return a fair result. Two second timer so I can get into position, keep the torch at near enough the same distance and we have the first exposure in the bag.
Avoid getting the light onto the glass so it remains dark and the reflection is improved. Hold the torch low so it skates across the glass surface and illuminates the subject from low down. This will look better in the reflection.
The torch and arm can go between the lens and subject without disturbing the finished result.
I like to merge several exposure in edit and will concentrate on one major part of my setup at a time.
My light is an LED block from Maplins at £10 It takes four AA rechargeable batteries which last for weeks at a timeas a work light in my day job as a plumber working in cupboards and under kitchen sinks.

An alternative to black glass using a similar lighting technique.

Saturday, 25 March 2017

White on white tabletop is a challenge for Keith Robins Photography
 With a roll of £3 wallpaper as a background, a recycled bottle from someone else's waste bin, a couple of glasses from a charity shop, plus a £7 can of white spray and a plastic rose the costs are hardly mounting up.
 Now add a framework to support the wallpaper. Two long reach woodworking clamps, fixed to each end of the recycled kitchen unit used as a bench, have plastic overflow pipe slotted over them.
 At the top of these are two Tee joints through which rests a length of metal tubing from an old shower curtain. This supports the wallpaper which is pulled out and secured with three large clips.
 Lighting is from the 'Lighthouse' LED lamp which runs on a pair of AA batteries.
 Out of an 8 second exposure I illuminated the background for two seconds stationary and then waved the light sideways to reduce the shadows coming forward.
 This is my favourite shot out of twenty or so images.
This is the light I used.
Here is a slight variation on the method of lighting, mainly, waving the lamp up and down to create reflections.
 I've also brewed up some tea for what I think Malibu looks like. To avoid scum and the cut down condensation I used cold water and merely floated a Red Bush teabag on top for three minutes.

Black on white tabletop photography using lightpainting.
Well, actually it's mixture of lightpainting and blending multiple exposures in Photoshop cc using black masks. Blending reveals small areas of additional photographs taken via long exposures while I wave a small torch around to either reduce shadows, cast extra shadows, produce highlights and reflections.

The yellow and black torch is from hardware stores under the name 'Lighthouse' and cost around £5.
The tiny black metal pocket torch runs on a single AA battery, emits a flash white balance compatible light which is unbelievably strong (150 plus lumens) and costs £5 from Screwfix.
The right-angle plastic plumbing fittings is from a toilet overflow and reduces the stark bright light to more of a usable glow. The idea is to hold this torch only a few inches from each of the items in turn, at such an angle that textures can be shown up and reflections gradually built up during, say a ten second exposure.

Sunday, 11 December 2016

My new 50mm F1.8 lens doesn't focus in the dark.
Bought with bokeh Christmas lights behind a portrait in mind, the narrow band of focus shows up the slightest deviation from correct focus on the nearest eye.
I'm using flashguns to light my model and she is lit up beautifully, but, she's out of focus!
It seems the new Yongnuo 622 tx radio trigger have a transmitter that sends out an infra red gridde focusing aid. Before I bought a set I remember seeing a Canon ST-E2 lying around in my studio.
Sure enough it sends out an infra red focusing grid long enough for the lens to focus, then turns off automatically - Brilliant!!
Remote control of a Canon flash in most rooms, or even a large hall, is a doddle. Outside I need line of sight with 12 metres maximum reach, but with the flash in slave mode I can operate all the controls including high speed sync. Plus, I can fire several other flashes in two groups and have ratio control over both groups.

However, I have one Canon flash and three Yongnuo 560 flashes and although they will all fire there seems no way I can make the Yongnuo's fire in sync with the shutter.
 The infra red beam fires off the Yongnuo's before the shutter has opened no matter which mode I use.

To be continued after the purchase of a set of Yongnuo 622tx radio triggers.

Tuesday, 2 December 2014

Creating a sunny window light in winter

Keith Robins Photography shares a solution to the problem of how to create a suuny aspect to his interior kitchen window cill when it's fairly dismal outside with low cloud cover, it's late in the day and late in the year. This is how his cat, Socks, looks using just daylight.
 So how exactly does he go about this task? Using a flashgun or two of course!
First off is calculating the exposure for what avalable light there is. Selecting a shutter speed of 1/200th to avoid shake, then choose the maximum aperture of F4, after all it is pretty dim out there and detail of the garden wall is required. Well, not really but we'll pretend that it is. 
As the results were way too dark at ISO 200 we decided on 1250 ISO as noise is not too much of an issue with a Canon 70D and Lightroom and the results don't look too bad, but by adding a flashgun we could do better.

   Now to create the sunlight. A flashgun is attached to a tall light stand in the backyard and a CTO (Colour Temperature Orange) filter is placed over the flash lens to warm up the light.
With the flash aimed at the kitchen window to be our pretend sunlight we'll retreat indoors and see how it looks in camera. To bright so we reduce the power setting to 1/2.

  The white balance is left on the flash setting on the camera which creates a very pleasant warm glow.
Adjusting our outdoor flash power to match ISO 1250 at F4 produces the resulting image below and looks a lot more natural, just like a summer's day!
However, the rest of our kitchen now seems a little dark compared to the new sunlight coming through the window, so a second flash is aimed at the ceiling well away from the window to make it seem as if the sunlight is strong enough to bounce around the room, which it would do in reality. We now need to find the cat again who by this time is settling into his basket and by pointing out the birds sat on the garden wall Socks is quite happy pose for another portrait.
A rather pleasing shot of 'Socks' peering through a kitchen window results from a bit of planning and a few items which most serious photographers have in their kit bag.

Both flashguns are operating on iShoot radio triggers from China at £55 for three triggers and a transmitter. A setting of 1/128th power is all that is required for the indoor flash and 1/2 power for the outside one. The signal for these radio trigger will bounce around a room in every direction and rarely cause a misfire. but outdoors they only work line of sight up to 50 metres easily. The outdoor trigger is hidden by the flashgun body so a small piece of silver foil is attached to bounce the radio signal at the trigger.

For those who have two sets of radio triggers ti's possible to join a receiver and transmitter together and place this combination in a position where it's visible from both camera and hidden trigger.
 Alternatively, a Yognou flashgun would be an option as they have an optical triggering system built-in, but again it has to be line of sight and a third flash on a radio trigger might be required to fire the outside flash.

All in all a very rewarding thirty minutes playing with flash.

Thursday, 30 October 2014

How to shoot American cars via time exposure

Although late in the year Keith Robins Photography reveals how using a time exposure plus a high aperture brings out the strong colours and the beautiful shapes of iconic American cars at Poole Quay 2014.

Canon 70D set to completely to manual
F22 at 1/25th second, ISO 100
Sigma 10 / 20mm zoom at 14mm

White balance is set to the Kelvin scale  and adjusted to suit, almost every ten minutes as the sun is fading fast!

 Between 1/30th and 1/2 second DSLR cameras vibrate for a very short time as the mirror pops up and the first part of the shutter snaps across with 1/15th having the most shake.

To save my back muscles and to help reduce camera shake I'm using 'Live View', which also shows whether the colours, focus and composition are spot on.

 Manfrotto tripods are among the world's best and is my favourite go-to tripod for the sort of semi low speed photography I am anticipating at this annual event.
Yes it is heavy but having spent a lot on camera, lens, travelling 45 miles to be here I'm not going to waste it all on a lightweight shaker. Besides, if it gets too heavy the Manfrotos are meaty enough to drag behind me on a length of string. (Joking!)

 The times are gradually getting longer throughout the evening until the pink car below took 13 seconds to capture still at F22 and ISO 100.
Can't remember the Kelvin details exactly but the 'K' control definitely helps.

 Lightroom 3.6 might be old hat now but it's so much quicker than putting all the Jpegs through Photoshop.
Did I say Jpegs then? I always use Jpegs, have done for the last ten years which amounts to over half a million photos.
However, with maximum quality in mind I decide to shoot in Raw + large Jpegs just in case. 
Damned good job I did both as Lightroom 3.6 does not deal in Raw images from my Canon 70D and refuses to upgrade.
Adobe CC here I come, not just because of this Raw issue although I will upgrade myself one day soon, but I've seen so many brilliant tutorials using the latest from Adobe that I'm temped beyond reason. So watch thsi space.

Wednesday, 29 October 2014

How to shoot sports silhouettes with Keith Robins Photography. 
 A white backdrop is good, across the floor by ten feet is even better. A single softbox fires from one side at 45 degrees to the backdrop so the light bounces off harmlessly to the far side and doesn't weaken the blackness. Okay, so this is not exactly even lighting but I'm trying to demonstrate how to do these type of shots simpley, easy, cheaply.
 This football shot takes more time than any of the others. Maybe Tann isn't a real sports fan at school - the ball shoots off at so many different angles. Yeah, yeah, I know I could photoshop the ball anywhere I like but that's not the idea here. These are all via Lightroom 3.6 which is old, cheap, simple etc.
Besides, my photoshop is on the blink, I will knuckle down to clearing out my Lightroom files as I'm suspecting the old Lightroom will vanish as soon as I sign up to Adobe CC and I'm not going to even think about what happens then. I never have managed to find where Lightroom saves when it backs up.
 Okay, so decorating may not be strictly a sport but DIY is high on the list of popular hobbies along with gardening, fisning and photography, plus I have all the painting kit in my van.
 Even the roller and the drill below are often in the van - I'm a builder / repairman.

I reckon a chair adds more impact than a traditional pair of steps, besides I don't have a pair in the van.
I hope you dodn't realize that Tann is adjusting a lighting stand, it should be a pipe, but hey, who's to know?
This climbing image really needs a rockface but my imagination is working overtime on this shoot due to a cappuccino being stronger than my normally drinking just hot water, sometimes with a tiny splash of orange squash.
Just to make thing more challenging I add a second flash with a grid to narrow the light down to just Tann's face, plus I shoot in colour as Tann, my model for the morning, wants to create a set of 'normal' photos for her Facebook page.
It was from these that the pure soot and whitewash silhouettes originate with the help of Lightroom.
Pushing the contrast way up, the brightness right up, blacks far over, plus an adjustment brush with plenty of contrast, etc. Oh, and saturation gets pushed down low as a little purple is creeping in here and there. 

Creating these silhouettes has been a rewarding exercise alround and there are so many variants yet to shoot, but using the right lighting in the first place helps a lot in seeing what the camera sees, plus I definitely needed a little help from Lightroom and it's, 'Job done!'