Posts Tagged ‘photography’

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I still take pictures!

November 14, 2008

After nearly a six week hiatus from photography work due to my own wedding and honeymoon, I have another shoot tomorrow. What better excuse to do another nerdy gear rundown?

Nikon D300 with MB-D10 grip. Still the perfect camera for me.

Sigma 18-50 f/2.8 macro lens. Great for interiors, exteriors, decoration details, the bride getting ready, reception guests, dancing–almost everything.

Sigma 50-150 f/2.8. Great for the wedding ceremony itself.

Nikon SB-600 flash. Excellent on the camera with my Lightsphere diffuser, but even better off-camera. When doing the posed shots I put this sucker on an umbrella stand and trigger it remotely with the built-in flash of the D300. It’s all wireless and battery powered, requires only one additional piece of gear (the stand), and still allows me to do a quick in-and-out guerilla-style shoot.

My secondary equipment includes the venerable Nikon D50 and the Nikkor 50 f/1.8. I often have my assistant shoot a “B roll” with this.

So what’s on the wish list? Two things. First, an SB-800 flash. Second, a Nikkor 85mm f/1.8 lens for portraiture. Maybe I’ll try to save up for one of them after the holidays.

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Wrass Builders

August 14, 2008

Running Feldstein Photography this past year has really opened my eyes to the challenges and opportunities faced by entrepreneurs and small, independent businesses. Once source of continuing inspiration and guidance during this process has been my friend and neighbor, Adam Wrass of Wrass Builders.

Let me not mince words: If you want to build a home, or if you want to remodel your existing home, there couldn’t possibly be a more enthusiastic, honest and hardworking person to turn to than Adam. Give him a call. You’ll see for yourself.

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Flash

August 11, 2008

I go to a lot of weddings, as you can imagine. There are many things I like and don’t like about them which you can read about in my upcoming book. But today I’ll tell you one of the dislikes: The use of flash photography during the ceremony.

My strategy is to go without flash, using ambient light only while the bride and groom are at the altar. Most churches won’t even allow it, so it’s pretty much the only strategy available. This is one of the critical junctures that separates the photographers from the wannabes. You generally have to know something about photography to pull off a no-flash shot in the dim light which one finds in most places of worship. Especially since your subject could be 30 yards away. You have to have a decent camera, a decent lens–and you have to know how to use them. Otherwise you get blurry, grainy shots that aren’t worth looking at twice.

But you know what I’ve noticed? That when I’m there turning my equipment and my skill to 11 in an effort to grab a sharp closeup of the bride as she says “I do,” there are half a dozen flashes going off in the pews around me. That’s right: Apparently aunt Debbie and uncle Raymond don’t have to observe the no-flash rule in the church. Presumably they know nothing about it at all.

But why aren’t they told? If flash is so disruptive, annoying and intrusive during the ceremony, then why is it only the professional who must go without it? Can’t there be some kind of church announcement which, in addition to reminding people to silence their cell phones, also reminded them not to use flash photography?

I’m not just thinking of myself, here, either. Sure it might make things easier for me if I could flash away, especially in the darkest venues, but I’m also thinking about the couple themselves. Would they be happier with adequately lit photographs of their ceremony instead of a push-it-to-the-limit, just getting by kind of exposure? Of course they would. If flash photography isn’t bothersome enough to trouble wedding guests with, then it’s not bothersome enough to degrade the photos that the couple is paying so much money to have me take.

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Riveting

August 4, 2008

My neighbor hit upon a terrific idea for my book: a series of essays about my experiences shooting peoples weddings. Of course it would have to be somewhat fictionalized to protect the privacy of the people involved, but I think it’s brilliant.

It’s got a built-in structure. It’s chunkable, in that I can write it in modular form (wedding 1, wedding 2). It’s something I know enough about to pull off. And best of all, it’s not really about them, it’s about me. Writing about their weddings will provide an interesting lens (if you will) through which the reader can discover my own feelings and thoughts about love, marriage, family, children, religion and more.

The other day I tried to brainstorm some thoughts about the idea without any censoring. The best thing to come out of that? “My interview with Terri Gross will be riveting.”

Having established that, I find myself wishing now for a brief “ten tips for writing your book” kind of guide. It seemed like the web was positively stupid with them, but now that i do some searches, I can’t find any that seem right for me.

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Shoot

July 17, 2008

I’ve written a fair bit about the technical side of photography, but there’s so much more to it than that. What’s it really like to be a wedding photographer? Here’s an outline of the whole enchilada, start to finish–in English, with very few technical details.

Contract: Usually I’ll get an email or phone call from a couple who has either found my site on Google, or who has seen my ad on Craig’s List. At that first contact, I make an appointment to discuss details in person. At that meeting I show them prints and photo books. I reiterate everything my web site says. I prominently display my camera, as even non-pros can tell it’s a serious bit of kit. I don’t pressure them to sign a contract. Instead I go over the agreement with them and send them home with a copy and some Moo cards. More often than not, I’ll get a signed contract back in the mail within a week, accompanied by a deposit check. It’s on. I put their wedding date in my calendar and cash their check.
Read the rest of this entry ?

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Wedding photographer’s gear check

July 3, 2008

This post on Digital Pro Talk–with which I vehemently disagreed–got me thinking about my own wedding shoot gear. If you’re not a photographer or techie-nerdy type, go ahead and skip this post.

First, my primary gear:

  • Nikon D300 camera. Rugged construction, superb noise performance at high ISO values, 6 frames per second in continuous mode, very high quality screen for checking exposure/color/focus, can serve as a commander for off-camera flashes such as the SB-600. It’s a perfect camera for this kind of work.
  • Nikon MB-D10 battery grip. To remove all doubt about whether you have enough juice in camera to last the whole day. Also, it provides a vertical shutter release and other buttons/dials. If that weren’t enough, it raises the frame rate of continuous mode to 8 frames per second–for those really fast-moving brides.
  • Sigma 18-50mm f/2.8 lens. Fast, cheap and reasonably good optics. I shoot 75% of the day with this lens–even ring closeups and cake toppers!
  • Sigma 50-150mm f/2.8 lens. Fast, cheap and reasonably good optics. I shoot most of the ceremony itself with this lens. It’s pretty compact for the range, too.
  • Nikon 50mm f/1.8 lens. Very fast, very cheap and very good optics. I sometimes bust this sucker out for bride glamour shots and other one-person portrait situations.
  • Nikon SB-600 flash. A flash is a flash–except when it can be triggered remotely by your camera via infrared signaling. There are other ways to trigger remote strobes, but, hey, this method is built-in to my camera and the flash already.
  • Powerex 2700 mAh NiMH batteries. Five to six sets of four, minimum, all freshly charged. Two sets go in the MB-D10 grip, three sets get rotated in and out of the SB-600 flash. Bring the charger, too.
  • Small umbrella stand. I haven’t done this yet, but next time out I’m fixin’ to hook up the SB-600 to one of them and set it up for the posed shots.
  • Lightsphere II clear flash diffuser. This stays on my flash 90% of the time. If I have a reflective ceiling, I leave the lid off; if not, I leave the lid on. Note: they make a universal-fit one now, so get that one instead.
  • Four compact flash cards, 4-16 gig capacity. This gives me capacity for thousands of high quality shots. I always use more than one card so if one is damaged/lost/stolen, I don’t lose the entire shoot.
  • Domke super compact black canvas bag. This is a shapeless old hat of a bag that I just love to death. It’s constructed like a tank, it’s easy to shoulder around, and I can shoot out of it. Handy for lens swapping while I sneak around the church during the ceremony.

Now, the backup stuff:

  • Nikon D50 camera. Extremely capable and reliable, but it only goes up to 1600 ISO–and is noisy at that level already. Sometimes I use it during ceremonies when I don’t want to swap lenses on the D300. Sometimes I give it to an assistant to shoot a “B-roll.” Sometimes it stays in the bag.
  • Opteka power grip. So I can put two batteries in the D50.
  • Sigma EF-500 flash.
  • Lightsphere diffuser to fit the Sigma flash.
  • A handful of 2-gig SD cards. For potentially thousands of high quality jpeg shots out of the D50.
  • Lowepro Slingshot 200 AW. I bought this to serve as a carry-on for when I’m flying with camera gear. But on wedding shoots I stuff it with all my back up gear.

I do bring other stuff, like my Macbook Pro, my iPhone for calls and Google maps navigation, a large umbrella for rain, a credit card, some cash, etc. But other than that the only other thing I might bring is a partner to help me carry all this junk around!

If I were going to make any gear changes, I’d think about augmenting the remote strobe/umbrella stand situation by getting a second Nikon SB-600 or -800 flash. I’ve also considered swapping out the Nikon 50mm f/1.8 for a similar but longer and more rugged Nikon 85mm f/1.8.

Update: I did some rough math in my head and all this stuff–primary and backup gear–has a replacement value of at least $4,500.

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Off-camera flash

June 30, 2008

One evening of experimentation and I’m hooked. A strobist is born.

Now I need some colored gels so I don’t have this shocking color mismatch. Even so, the result is pretty cool, eh? For some shots (like these) I simply had someone hold the light just out of frame on the left. For other shots I used it as a light grenade: like when I stood it on the DJs table, aimed it at the ceiling, and proceeded to work the entire dance floor.

These people at Nikon are very, very smart.