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Sony announces the a6400 and debuts new features. (#)
Will Canon’s next massive megapixel camera be mirrorless-only? (#)
Sony to roll out new features to existing bodies via firmware. (#)
Lasers could be increasing damaging to your camera. (#)
Flying drones at night and/or over people might be a thing. (#)
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Capturing the Eye-Popping Density of Hong Kong’s Tower Blocks
Hong Kong is one of the most densely populated areas in the world, with an overall density of an estimated 6,300 people per square kilometer. More than 7 million people live on about 1,108 square kilometers (427 square miles) of land, and 29.1% of the Hong Kong population lives in public rental housing estates.
To start off a 3.5-week trip and before heading to Southeast Asia, my friend Michael Sheffels and I stopped in Hong Kong for 4 days to see the area and explore the Kowloon side as well.
This was our last, longest and most urban stop before heading into the quiet country. For years I have seen amazing pictures and series of these public housing/apartment tower blocks being built and knew that they were something I wanted to see and document for myself. Rather than just creating stills from these, I went with the goal of taking abstract videos and displaying them more like art, showing off their true scale.
Please enjoy my short film above as well as a few of my favorite stills captured:
All the images are shot with either the Canon 5DS R or the Canon 1D X Mark II with Canon 100-400mm and the aerials are shot with the DJI Mavic Pro 2. The video was all shot with the DJI Mavic and Polar Pro ND Filters.
We only visited a tiny blip of these housing areas and complexes. After only being there for a short time, there is so much more I want to see. I can’t wait to go back.
P.S. You can view this full project and purchase prints on its webpage.
About the author: Toby Harriman is an aerial director who lives in San Francisco and Alaska. The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author. You can find more of Harriman’s work on his website and Instagram.
For a while now, I’ve wanted to cover the topic of syndication as it was a major factor in my work gaining widespread exposure and for the full-time career that I have now as a fine art, commercial, and editorial photographer.
I had no knowledge of the world of syndication at the time I was approached by an editor with an offer to promote my work that way. So maybe there will be something in my experience that will be value-added to other photographers who might be considering syndication of their images.
I sometimes speak with photography students at art colleges (and more frequently get e-mails with questions from students of photography) and a common ask has to do with strategies about making one’s work stand out in an extremely crowded market. It’s always a difficult and complicated answer: beyond warning people to avoid gimmicks, it’s to focus on an area of photography that they love and to approach a subject of your work for the long game.
Usually I get the sense that students are eager to make a living in the field of photography and they want some kind of insight into how to replicate my success. But as an “accidental visual artist” who studied English in college, I’m limited in my capacity to advise them as I feel in most respects that this is a career that found me. But I do always advocate for the benefits of a broad, liberal arts education in helping one to know how to respond to doors of opportunity as they open (even though it means that I tend to not get asked back to speak by schools that are more than happy to have students majoring in Photography as undergrads).
My Big Appetites photographs (which I first called ‘Disparity’) were something that I had been doing for almost nine years by the time they were first published. To be honest, I really needed a lot of that time too as I was an intuitive, self-taught photographer, more accustomed to shooting for journalism, travel, and portraiture. It took me a while to understand how to light for macro food photography and thereby run the roadblocks of my own shortcomings as a photographer.
These images with tiny figures were a tiny percentage of my total creative output. The key was really that I just didn’t give up on the idea. I kept pecking away at it whenever an idea came to me, from the time I made initial test images in December 2002 to the spring of 2011 when everything changed dramatically. Like many other photographers, I put my work online in those early days. But other than one of my young nieces who enjoyed the images, no one really cared or took notice.
I can’t recall now all of the places I had my images online. I’m sure I must have published some on various websites, blogs and iWeb accounts I had over time. I do know that I had images up on a photography website called Zooomr back in the day (a site I enjoyed a lot and that introduced me to the impressive work of Thomas Hawk) and later on Flickr (which I liked a lot less and that also contributed to my work being misappropriated). Making images available online was just the easy part. One still has the challenge of making them stand out on those sites where they exist among many millions of other photographs of pets, insects, flowers, hot air balloons, people’s kids, etc.
What catalyzed widespread notoriety for my work was a website called 500px based in Toronto. From the start, I perceived that the site seemed to be better curated by the other photographers putting their work there (fewer people were using it as a repository for pictures of their pets and family photos).
What I particularly enjoyed about 500px was that, since the site had been founded by Russians, it seemed to have a better balance of photographers from Russia and Europe opposed to mainly North Americans. So there was a discernible cultural difference that had a bearing on the look of the images.
Of course, like many other photography sites, there was a social aspect to it that would aid in building a following through a system of comments and ratings from peers. Though I don’t know that I’m all that talented in doing whatever I have to do to organically build a robust following. There are plenty of photographers who are very good at playing that game and understanding how it all works.
For me, it was just about putting up my best images, taking care to edit myself as best I could, and then being humble and grateful when people would comment or rate my work. I would also not be shy about commenting on and admiring those who I thought were doing work that inspired me. Beyond that, I really had no agenda about scheming to get my work “out there” or to market myself in a way that would bring me income.
I don’t recall how long I had been on the 500px site when (maybe around April 2011) I received a direct message out of the blue from an editor in Europe who pitched me the idea of syndicating my images. Knowing nothing at all about syndication I thought it might be a scam and my knee jerk reaction was to have reservations about sending twelve high-resolution images to a complete stranger on the other side of the world. But after some thought and discussion with my best friend, I decided to give it a shot.
What I learned is that worldwide media is hungry for interesting content for their publications. So syndicators will buy a group of images, will package it with a story, and will offer it to a range of publications. Once the content is in their system they will offer it to a network of syndication partners in other countries who will do the same.
The syndication agency I started with was Caters News, which placed my images in a handful of publications in the United Kingdom in May 2011. Although it wasn’t the first time my images had been in print, syndication was a completely new experience in many respects. I expected that I’d get a little bit of money. What actually happened is that my images quickly spread.
After appearing in England they were in Scotland. Then in France, Greece, and Italy. Then Pakistan and Australia. The photographs of tiny figures and food that I had worked on in obscurity for almost a decade were suddenly everywhere online. My inbox was flooded with comments and e-mails asking where people could buy prints. There were interview requests from editors and requests to use images that went on for months. I was even contacted by a book agent at a top agency, suggesting that the work would make a great book.
And there were galleries reaching out to ask if I would be interested in selling my photographs as fine art prints. Interest was suddenly raining down from the sky and I was running around with a paper cup trying to do my best to catch it.
That summer the work took off like a rocket, completely exceeding my expectations. What came first was just the attention. No one was writing me checks overnight. The money would come long after the notoriety. Big Appetites would go on to be published as a book but not until two years later. And I did start signing with fine art galleries. But that had its own process too.
For the purposes of the subject at hand, I think it is best to focus the rest of this post on the pros and cons of syndicating your images. We’ll start with the positive.
Syndication is a powerful way to introduce your photography to the world. I can obviously speak only from my own experience and results may vary. But on the whole, syndicating my images got my work into a range of publications around the world, expanded knowledge of my photography very quickly and broadly, and brought me opportunities that I may not have been able to realize through other means. Doing two or three syndication deals, one after the other, for six months to a year at a time, resulted in my photographs being published in around 100 countries without me having to do much of the work in getting them there.
A little bit of money
Depending on the details of the syndication arrangements, the syndicator generally will split the profit with the photographer. So if the publication offers $250 for the content, you get $125. Some publications pay less, some more.
Awareness leading to opportunities
Many people have used the term “going viral” in reference to the way my Big Appetites photographs ricocheted around the Internet. And at a certain point, the notoriety did seem to have an organic power of its own. Though to be fair, much of the momentum had to do with the significant work that I did to keep it going. This involved finding a design house to put together a website for me, posting on social media, working very hard to continue the photo series by shooting a lot of new images, doing endless interviews via both e-mail and telephone.
I’d say the first six months or so were the most intense. Due to the widespread interest in my photography from around the world, I was often working on behalf of Big Appetites from very early in the morning to late at night. It is one thing to have doors of opportunity open. It is another to be prepared in a way that helps you figure out the best way to go through that door.
I found that syndication networks were less than clear about where my work was being used. Nor did they readily identify the other syndication networks they partner with. So while they would generate intermittent reports about where images were published, sometimes it was evident — like on the NBC Today Show website or InTouch magazine — and other times it would be some obscure Belgian print publication I had never heard of and that was identified in the payment report merely by way of an incomprehensible acronym. Which leads us to….
Certainly it is no surprise to any visual artist who uses the internet to promote their work that it is easy for others to take and republish images without permission. So as my photographs spread through the syndication networks, they just as quickly began to pop up on many (many!) websites of publications that had absolutely no right to use them.
I could write volumes about my experiences with copyright infringement. I’m not talking here about teenagers who discovered some of my images, found them funny and entertaining, and decided to post some of them to social media. I’m referring to mainstream news publications, which generate revenue from subscriptions, newsstand sales, and advertising, who just helped themselves to my work and used it as free content to enrich themselves.
The percentage of this activity probably comprised better than 40% of where my images went online. In some cases, it could be curtailed or stopped. But in many other cases (Turkey, Russia, Brazil, China, Argentina, just to name a few) the publications rampantly steal content with impunity.
I’ve frequently seen comments from amateur photographers who seem to like to assign me the blame for the image theft I’ve had to endure simply because I didn’t watermark my work before putting it online. The truth is that you can’t so readily sell your work with big, ugly watermarks on them. You most certainly can’t do that if, say, The New York Times or Washington Post is hiring you to create an editorial commission.
My experience has demonstrated that the world is full of entitled people with no respect for artist rights and they are more than happy to take your work and use it to gain attention/interest/traffic. This is not just news publications either, but commercial brands who take and use images without permission as they engage with customers on social media. But I digress. There is much to say about copyright at another time. I’ll just finish by saying that the lack of transparency and clear accounting from the syndicators makes copyright enforcement tricky.
Having done editorial commissions I can tell you that print publications are not well known for paying contributors quickly. Working through syndication networks as no exception. Do not undertake syndication arrangements if you are expecting to collect payment swiftly or to generate a living wage. If you are patient, however, and view this income as part of an overall plan as a working photographer, then you’ll be fine.
Read your syndication contracts carefully to avoid getting yourself in a situation in which your images are being offered in a way that you’re not comfortable with. For example, you might be thrilled to see your pictures used in a large feature spread in a major magazine or newspaper. But you might not be OK with your images being offered to stock agencies as well, especially when you couldn’t potentially make a lot more by directly licensing your work on your own (to audiences who might be outside of the contract, like commercial entities).
I think I worked with three different syndication agencies over a period of a couple years, but none simultaneously of course, as contracts require exclusivity. In my experience they ask you to commit for a certain amount of time, I’d say at least six months. So be sure you are OK with sticking it out. Business generally works better when professionals abide by their contracts.
It’s a volume business
Certain publications seem extremely hungry for syndicated content. I’ve had my work featured in major newspapers in the UK only to have them see my work somewhere else six months later and come back to me to ask if I’d like to be featured in their publication. They have so many different photo editors and churn through so much content that it’s likely they don’t remember that they’ve already published my work. I do take care to offer them fresh content and new text (if they’re looking for it). And here is but one reason this is on the list of cons:
There was the time a copycat amateur photographer in Italy replicated the exact same composition of about a dozen of my images and managed to sell a feature story to a UK daily newspaper. As if that weren’t creepy enough, he even went so far as to do an entire interview about the work, pretending that the idea was his, and sourcing most of the answers about his inspiration from the text on my own website. I only learned about the feature when the fine art gallery in London that was representing my work altered me to it.
The paper immediately removed the story when I brought it to their attention and, likely understanding their liability in the matter, offered to pay me. I declined their payment, accepting their apology and the removal. The point was made. It did drive home how eager they are to fill column inches, not to mention how so many unethical photographers out there will happily bask in the attention and accolades for their “creativity” and “originality” when they’ve totally cribbed the idea from someone else.
Sometimes it is hard to turn off
I generally had positive experiences syndicating my images through Caters News and Rex Features.
Syndication arrangements with Barcroft Media were initially positive during the time I did business with them but were later severely tarnished in a significant breach of trust when, more than a year after our arrangements had expired, my photographs we discovered as still being offered for sale through one of their syndication partners. They apologized, saying they did everything they could to inform their syndication partners that they were no longer authorized to offer my work for sale. They claimed that it was a simple mistake.
I accepted their adamant assurances that it would never happen again and then moved on, only to discover four years later that yet another of their syndication partners still had my images available for licensing. I was less willing to overlook this as a mistake and saw it for the gross negligence and infringement of my copyrights that it was.
This should be an instructive lesson in the way that a lack of transparency on the part of a syndication company may result in your images still being offered or sold for years after the contract ends, simply because you have no way of knowing yourself which partner companies might still have your images as the main syndication company won’t reveal it to you.
In summary, syndication can be a powerful way to gain notoriety for your work. Though it comes with some serious drawbacks that can temper the benefits. Overall, the exposure of my work through international syndication was the kindling on which I built the fire that is a full-time career in fine art, editorial, and commercial photography that is keeping my hearth warm to this day.
About the author: Christopher Boffoli is a fine art, commercial and editorial photographer based in Seattle, Washington. The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author. Boffoli is best known for his Big Appetites work, which features tiny figures posed against real food landscapes. In addition to his commercial and advertising work for brands large and small, his fine art photographs may be found in galleries and private collections in the United States, Canada, Europe, and Asia. You can find more of Boffoli’s work on Instagram. This article was also published here.
The final language of the directive is set to be made public next week. In the current form, Article 11 would force Google and other news aggregators to pay non-waivable licensing fees when photo thumbnails and article excerpts are displayed — things that are generally considered fair use under US copyright law. Article 13 would require platforms like Google to actively screen all uploads for potential copyright infringement or they could be held liable.
While these two Articles may sound like a good deal for photographers and other copyright owners, critics argue that they could increase censorship and break how the Internet works.
“Article 11 could change that principle and require online services to strike commercial deals with publishers to show hyperlinks and short snippets of news,” Google News VP Richard Gingras wrote last month. “This means that search engines, news aggregators, apps, and platforms would have to put commercial licences in place, and make decisions about which content to include on the basis of those licensing agreements and which to leave out.
“Effectively, companies like Google will be put in the position of picking winners and losers.”
Search Engine Land reports that Google has been conducting an experiment to show the impact the proposed EU Copyright Directive could have on its search engine. Screenshots first published by Search Engine Land show “denuded” search engine result pages that contain site titles and links without any photo thumbnails, article titles, or article excerpts.
“In fact they look like pages that have failed to completely load,” Search Engine Land writes.
Thumbnails are currently commonly used on Google (and other search engine) result pages to provide an easy-to-understand preview of what the user is clicking. Here’s what a current search result page looks like with photo thumbnails intact:
Google doesn’t currently pay any licensing fees to display these low-resolution thumbnail previews, as they were ruled to be fair use in US courts over a decade ago. But if Google is soon forced to pay licensing fees for all thumbnails and excerpts starting in 2021 if/when the new law takes effect, Google search result pages may begin looking a lot emptier.
What I Learned from Seeing ‘The Eye of Sauron’ in My Night Sky Photo
Roughly two years ago, I bought my first decent DSLR camera. I was overprotective, cleaning every bit of dust I could see and adding extra padding in my bag to avoid any possible accidents whenever I carried it around.
After being in photography for a while and going through every single tutorial I could lay my hands upon, I discovered the magic of astrophotography.
Astrophotography can be so mesmerizing, and it doesn’t take much to get hooked. After a week of intense research, I knew the fundamentals of what was needed to take a decent nighttime picture.
Go as far as possible from city lights, to avoid light pollution.
Get yourself a decent, sturdy tripod.
Use Manual mode.
Point to the stars for more than 10secs with the widest possible aperture of your lens and…
And that’s what I set out to do. Being in a village for Easter at the time, I didn’t have to worry much about point number one. So I packed everything meticulously and headed off to a nice vantage point on the terrace of a public building with a clear view of the night sky and the village.
Step by step, as a ritual, I started setting everything up trying not to forget any important step. When my setup was ready, I was eager to apply what precious knowledge I had learned, but it was quite dark and I struggled to find a decent composition, so I opted to take a test shot of the sky at first and work my way around it afterward.
So I nervously clicked the shutter of the camera and waited 20 seconds for my first image.
3… 2… 1 and the rear LCD screen flashed in a greyish blue color of the night sky illuminated by the setting moon. I was quite satisfied, I mean I had a somewhat decent image in my first try but when I looked closely at the picture something weird appeared.
An odd red line I had never seen before. It seemed like a digital glitch because it wasn’t that visible with the naked eye, so I tried taking another picture with slightly different settings but the same red vertical line appeared again. I started getting nervous, I didn’t know what I had done wrong. I couldn’t notice it in the dark sky so I must have messed up somehow, or broke my camera.
After resting my eyes a bit and not looking at the bright LCD screen I tried looking at the night sky again to see if something indeed was out there. After a minute and lots of squinting, there it was: a faint red vertical line blinking in the dark cloudy night sky. And after looking even closer, a few more were visible in the sides parallel to the big one. So I took another picture this time zoomed in.
At first I was satisfied that there was no issue with my camera but on the other hand It was a bit frightening, to say the least — all these stories and movies suddenly came to mind and being completely alone on a rooftop in the middle of the night with no signal on your phone doesn’t quite help to think rationally.
After I calmed down and all those thoughts were eliminated I tried to rationalize the problem and solve it. Just as I would do with any other given problem I encounter. Break it down to simpler problems.
The possibility of it being a digital malfunction was excluded so it was something that was occurring in front of me. Which led me to think that it was either something physical like a meteorite, an iridium flare, a distant airplane/satellite, or an illusion. But all of the above have a clear beginning and end, you can see them evaporating, shining, or moving. What I was seeing was there constantly, hovering in the night sky…
So I thought of taking multiple exposures of the same scene (with slightly boosted exposure to gain more information) to see if there was any movement whatsoever. And after playing back the images in rapid succession…
The clouds were moving but the weird red lines were intact they were at exactly the same spot.
So as a final deduction I thought of moving slightly to get a different angle of the phenomena but the glowing lines were at the same position as I was. That was the final deduction that made me 100% that what I was looking was, indeed an optical illusion.
I didn’t know if it was common or rare. I just enjoyed the remaining moments and was satisfied that I had some evidence so I could share it with others.
The excitement of heading home and finding out exactly what it was in combination with the cold made me leave a few moments later. I headed back home and after a few minutes of research, I found exactly the name of the phenomena I had just witnessed: it’s called light pillar.
The above for me was an eye-opening experience, especially while taking my first steps in a completely new field. I learned not to panic, break down the problem with what knowledge I already had, evaluate calmly the facts and test case different scenarios. And later, in the comfort of your home, you can throw yourself into research and actually discover something you never knew existed.
About the author: Serafeim Zormpas is a photographer, filmmaker, computer engineering student, and trainee at the European Astronaut Centre. The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author. You can find more of Zormpas’ work on his Instagram. This article was also published here.
Camera Not Tethering to Capture One? Cloud File Syncing May Be to Blame
Is your Sony camera not tethering to Capture One Pro or any other software on your Mac or Windows computer? I had this issue for quite some time and thought there must be some issue with my system, or camera, or wire — nope. I decided to write a message to Capture One and get a fix but no one could help me.
Almost no one seems to know about this issue. There were a few people who had the same issue, but they never shared any solution to it. It was just get a new camera, laptop, tether tool wire, or maybe stop tethering.
Anyhow, last few month I stopped shooting because I couldn’t tether and I don’t enjoy my shoots if I can’t tether. I was going mad trying to fix th eproblem, and today I have the solution.
Every time I connected my camera, this is what the camera showed:
Capture One Pro was clueless and gave me messages like this one:
And other times it showed nothing at all:
What I discovered is that this was caused by Google Drive Backup & Sync. All you need to do is…
Yes, that’s right: simply Quit your Google Drive Backup & Sync and it should start working perfectly. I’m not much of a technical person, but I really think this is the stupidest thing that I have ever come across. There shouldn’t be a connection at all, so I still don’t understand what’s happening.
About the author: Shreyans Dungarwal is a fashion and commercial photographer working in Mumbai. The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author. You can find more of Dungarwal’s work on his website, Twitter, and Instagram. This article was also published here.
This Photo of Earth and the Moon Was Shot from 71 Million Miles Away
Here’s a new photo that shows Earth and the Moon from a whopping 71 million miles away. It was captured by NASA’s OSIRIS-REx, which is currently on a mission to obtain a sample from a near-Earth asteroid and return it to Earth.
The photo was captured on December 19th, 2018, using the spacecraft’s NavCam 1 camera. Earth and the moon can be seen on the bottom-left side of the photo. The much larger white object in the upper-right side is asteroid Bennu.
Earth is 71 million miles (114M km) away in the photo, while Bennu is just 27 miles (43 km).
Earth and the Moon were able to be captured in the photo by overexposing the asteroid with a 5-second exposure.
Launched back in September 2016, OSIRIS-REx is scheduled to return Earth with its samples from Bennu on September 24th, 2023.
Heartbreaking Photos of Pet Owners Saying Goodbye to Their Dying Pets
Last Moments is a powerful photo series by Pulitzer Prize-nominated photographer Ross Taylor, who was invited to document the intimate last moments in a beloved pet’s life when the owner must deal with a painful farewell.
Taylor was inspired to turn his camera on this topic after his good friend went through the agonizing decision to euthanize her ailing dog.
“When someone tells me they’re struggling with the death of a pet, my heart aches for them,” Taylor tells the Washington Post. “I was profoundly moved by witnessing her struggle and her love for her dog.”
Taylor is a freelance visual journalist and an assistant professor in the College of Media, Communication and Information at the University of Colorado Boulder. Between 2017 and 2018, he visited pet owners in the Tampa Bay area of Florida after they called the at-home pet euthanasia veterinarian service Lap of Love.
Using a Single DIY Globe Modifier for Simple, Stunning Portraits
It’s not often I get to shoot very simple, clean white light shots, but in a recent shoot the model asked if she could get some updated ‘Polaroids’. For those of you not familiar with the term when used in reference to a model shoot, it’s actually not the now-obsolete and ludicrously expensive single-shot film, but a request for very basic portraits of the model for their agency.
This ‘Polaroid’ term is a relic from the analog film days and it essentially now means shots that are un-retouched and with the model wearing very little makeup.
I was happy to shoot a few of these ‘Polaroids’ as it literally takes two minutes. You throw up some simple light, the model stands in for a couple of headshots, some three-quarter lengths and full body etc. You then send the shots with almost zero retouching over to the model and she then passes them on to her modeling agency so that they can be used as a reference point for those who are interested in working with the model in the future.
Tip: Just really quickly while we’re on this subject. If you’re a photographer selecting models from an agency, you really must insist on seeing the models ‘Polaroids’. In a world of amazing makeup and ridiculous post-production, you need to be looking at what the subject looks like without all of that. Failure to do so will result in you being caught out with a model with bad skin or worse.
So back to the setup. I knew that for these raw looking shots that the light had to be very clean and flattering and without many shadows. This way, the light and its shadows aren’t hiding anything and a soft light at least makes the model look her best under those raw conditions. Like I said at the start, I rarely shoot simple white light but I did have an idea that I’d wanted to try for some time and I thought this would be a perfect opportunity to do so.
Why You Never See a Globe Modifier Being Used
For this setup, I only used one light and the modifier I used was actually a DIY one. The modifier is essentially a very diffused globe that sits on top of my strobe. The resulting light from this throws light absolutely everywhere around the room, especially when pointing straight up. It throws light onto the model, onto me and all over the room that you’re in. You can see why this type of modifier is not often used, because as photographers we crave absolute control of the light and this diffused globe is not giving us any control whatsoever.
But we can use this one very fundamental flaw of globe modifiers to our advantage if we’re smart.
What Do I Need?
Firstly let’s see the DIY diffusion globe I was using. The globe itself is a simple FADO desk lamp that I bought from IKEA and its about 25cm in diameter. I then just removed all the wiring and bulb from the inside and it was ready to use in my photoshoot.
Once that was done, I simply mounted it to an old speedring with gaffer tape. A speedring, if you’re not sure, is the part of a softbox that attaches it to your light. Imagine if you removed all of the struts from a softbox, you’d be left with the speedring. You can either temporarily dismantle your softbox for the speedring for this setup, or just use a spare one so that you don’t have to keep re-taping the globe on each time. Speedrings are also really cheap depending on the strobe brand you use so it might be worth picking up an extra one anyway.
First Setup: Direct-Light
Now that we have our light ready to go, let’s take a shot of the model with the globe pointed directly towards her and see what the results look like. Here’s a diagram of the setup I used below.
Now let’s take a look at the resulting images from this direct light setup.
So you guys can see for yourself that although there nothing wrong with these shots, there is still a lot of shadowing going on, not only on the model but also the background as well.
You may actually like this look as it provides very clean and directional lighting that is still flattering due to its diffused softness. So if you’re happy with this, you’re done and you can X-out of here now…. but if you’d like to see a far more beautifying look without the need for any additional lights, read on.
Second Setup: Diffused-Light
Like I said earlier, the real beauty of this setup is to use its greatest flaw as its greatest strength. I mentioned that this diffused globe throws light absolutely everywhere, including onto the model, you the photographer as well as all over the room that you’re in. So here is the trick. By throwing up a couple of big white polyboards behind you, (or a big white sheet like I did), you’re effectively creating two lights. One light is the small globe that is a single point of light in front of the model, and the second light is now that big white sheet behind you.
Take a look at the lighting setup below and then I’ll go on to explain why and how this works so well.
Now take a look below at some of the resulting images from this diffused-light setup.
Remember: the images below are from a SINGLE light setup!
Look at the strong edge of the shadows yet filled with plenty of soft light. Look at how this setup still creates highlights, as can be seen on the legs, and look at how there are highlights and shadows on the arms in the three quarter length shot. All of this results in a very flattering light because it cast shadows to create shape but those shadows are also incredibly soft.
As those of you who’ve followed my work for a while will know, I rarely shoot this type of bright white imagery, but even I have to admit that the light from this setup is absolutely beautiful! Plus this is just ONE light in a small room! This setup could really be used anywhere. Also, this setup only gets better the smaller the room you’re in and that includes home studios as long as the walls are white or at least close to white.
White Polyboard Substitute
I mentioned in the description of this setup that you could use white polyboards to bounce the light if you’re in a studio. These are just large sheets of 2×1 meter polystyrene that can be positioned around the studio to either block or bounce light. Most of us don’t have access to them all the time so a large white reflector or even a big white sheet is just as good.
Two Lights in One
So what on earth is going on here? How can we have defined shadows from a key light, as well as a fill light, but only be using a single light?
Here’s what’s actually happing in the setup. Light from the globe facing the model goes straight to her like any key light to create a strong directional shadow. The resulting look of this is just like the original shots at the top of this article where the globe was pointed directly towards the model without any white bounce behind. The defined shadow of this key light is due to the small size of the globe in relation to the subject.
But with the globe now pointing up, the globe’s light is also hitting the white boards/sheet behind you and bouncing back onto the model. This bounced light now fills in those shadows giving the illusion of an additional fill light.
This ‘two-lights-in-one’ effect of the bounced light has a double bonus too as that bounced light is now incredibly diffused after bouncing off of the sheet, plus it has lost some of its power due to bouncing and having to travel further. Both of these things make for the perfect fill light.
By The Way…
Now you didn’t hear this from me…. but I’ve been told that this setup can also produce some very beautiful black and white portraits… if you’re still into that sort of thing.
I love that I finally got the chance to try out this setup as it really does produce some utterly stunning light and in such a simple way too. I know there are a thousand and one ‘phenomenal’ single light setups out there, but ultimately most of them either involve an expensive modifier or simply require you to move the light to a different position around the subject.
This single light setup doesn’t require an expensive modifier as you can pick up one of these diffused globes very cheaply indeed, and with two minutes of tinkering you can have it on your light and ready to go. Of course, you can play with moving the light around the scene if you like, but I personally preferred the globe above the camera so as to throw any shadows directly behind the model. This worked particularly well as the subject was always engaged with the camera, but if you were shooting with the model looking away from the lens, moving the globe around could create some cool looks too.
About the author: Jake Hicks is an editorial and fashion photographer based in Reading, UK. He specializes in keeping the skill in the camera and not just on the screen. If you’d like to learn more about his incredibly popular gelled lighting and post-pro techniques, visit this link for more info. You can find more of his work and writing on his website, Facebook, 500px, Instagram, Twitter, and Flickr. This article was also published here.
Those who follow my work know that I consider myself a large format photographer. I will photograph with a medium format camera, particularly when I’m trying to save weight on a backpacking trip or save time when I’m teaching a photography workshop, but 35mm has been somewhat shunned in my arsenal, being a format I deemed too small to be used effectively for my work.
In late 2017, Kodak Alaris announced they were going to rerelease a redesigned version of their old Ektachrome film stock as E100 in 35mm. When I heard this news, I was absolutely thrilled. Lately, film stocks are being discontinued left and right, from particular sizes to the entire stock altogether. With Kodak releasing a NEW film stock, I feel like there was a bit of light at the end of the tunnel – especially for transparency film. While I was disappointed it would not be announced in medium or large format film, I decided to give it a shot in 35mm.
My first pack of rolls finally came in during the fourth quarter of 2018, and I decided that what better opportunity to try out this new film than at the bottom of the world? I had my second trip planned to the Antarctic Peninsula where I was teaching with Muench Workshops in December of 2018 and figured I’d toss in a few rolls with my Nikon F5 and give it a whirl.
After shooting about 6 rolls, I selected about 20 frames for drum scanning. The scenes varied and lenses used were a Voigtlander 40mm Ultron, a Nikon 70-200 f/4, and a Sigma 160-600. My favorite shots tended to be closer to the telephoto and super telephoto range with a shallow depth of field. With high-resolution drum scans, you’re able to truly analyze grain unlike any other scans and with E100, and I was impressed. When compared to a film such a Provia 100F, the grain seemed smaller, more even, and produced slightly sharper images.
Overall, I was very impressed with the film. It metered easily and performed as expected for a transparency film. Fortunately, in Antarctica, my dynamic range was relatively limited (it was all pretty much white), but even on bright, sunny days, I don’t feel like I had any problems blowing my highlights. Generally, I would say that I would keep this film within the 5-7 stops of dynamic range, as you would with any other transparency film stock.
The color seemed very accurate, neutral, and even. There did not seem to be any overall color cast (which I will discuss below a bit further) and, especially in the deep shadows, there was not any unnatural color casting, as typical with most transparency films.
The most notable benefit for E100 for me was its overall sharpness. When using proper technique and with limited diffraction, the film does seem to be incredibly sharp. Particularly with images with a shallow depth of field, where your subject is in focus and you have a clear out of focus area, the prints resolve amazingly at 24×36”. While pouring through images, pixel peeping each drum scan at 100%, I couldn’t help but be wowed by the sharpness I was seeing with 35mm. Below is an example of a 100% crop from a drum scan of a 35mm E100 frame.
The film also seemed to have a very strong ability to recover shadows. On my first roll of film through the Nikon F5, I had accidentally set my exposure compensation to underexpose by 1.3 stops, rather than overexpose by 1.3 stops, compensating for the white snow/ice I was metering. So, as you can fully imagine, everything was drastically underexposed. I decided to go ahead and drum scan a frame from that roll to see what I could pull out, and the results surprised me.
The image below is one that I pulled from the darkness, so to speak. Fortunately, the light was very flat, the tones were very even, and everything came out very clean. That being said, I think my results could be challenged with an underexposed image with more dynamic light, but I was still impressed with the information the film stored in the shadows.
Firstly, most of my frustration isn’t with the actual film stock itself, but more in the size of the film. I think that given what a drum scanned 35mm can provide, E100 will provide some of the best results you can get. 35mm is, in my opinion, somewhat inherently flawed in its size. It’s just too limited. Diffraction is much more noticeable on landscape shots when your compositions require a substantial depth of field and your aperture is small, and the resolving power of 35mm just isn’t quite there for most traditional landscape photographers who are printing larger prints.
35mm is based around a fast shooting style, which requires fast lenses, higher ISO speeds, and being light and nimble, and all of those seem to be each other’s Devil’s advocate. With that being said, I think my biggest issue (and I wouldn’t even really call it an issue) with E100, is its color cast – it’s nonexistent! While some might love this, I somewhat enjoy getting results from transparency film that have a bit of a color cast – that is one of the reasons why I choose a particular film stock.
Having a neutral color palette definitely has its advantages, and a bit of white balance can be adjusted for taste after the scan, but sometimes I like to see that in the actual film itself – the film’s character, so to speak. While this is ‘issue’ is definitely a nitpick, it does have its drawbacks. I feel that with some images, they quickly became bland without a bit of a color cast.
The example above was photographed on Fuji Provia 100F and has a very noticeable blue/magenta cast, which that film is known to have. In my opinion, the slight blue cast absolutely benefits this scene. On a snowy, overcast day, the grays can be a bit overwhelming, and a bit of blue can add interest and emotion to a photograph. Whether or not you want to add this in post-processing is your choice.
Printing From E100
You must ask yourself what you intend to do with your results, and then choose a film based on these results. I’m in the business of making detailed, sometimes very large prints which has always held me back from 35mm because of the dreaded word: grain. Whether you’re shooting 35mm or 16×20 sheet film, grain remains the same size, so as you begin enlarging film, whether it’s scanned and printed larger, or optically enlarged, the grain becomes larger. So it is up to the discretion of the artist who is printing the final image to decide just how much grain you want to be able the viewer to see in the final image.
To me, this is the beauty of film – with digital, you’re just going to eventually see pixels, but with film, you see grain! And grain is beautiful. For me, I have a limit to this. I naturally gravitate towards fine grain film, such as E100, but my limit to printing 35mm will most likely be 24×36 for most prints, which is actually still quite large. These prints I’ve chosen to print at 24×36 are images that might not have as many fine details as a “big landscape” shot.
Moving Forward With E100 and 35mm
While I’m not exactly a wildlife photographer, I did enjoy photographing portraits of wildlife with 35mm, which probably how I would tend to shoot this film in the future. While I would be comfortable printing some of my images up to 24×36″, most of those images are from a telephoto lens with a shallow depth of field, which doesn’t require a ton of resolving power.
For textured, detailed scenes, such as big landscapes, I will stick to at least medium format film moving forward. I don’t feel like I will be using 35mm film for big landscapes, where I have to use small apertures. For those types of scenes, I intend on having a medium format camera alongside, such as my Mamiya 7ii.
Overall, I’m incredibly happy with my results from Kodak’s 35mm Ektachrome E100, and I’m extremely excited to see a company reinvesting manpower into a new transparency film stock. So, will I have room for 35mm in my kit now? Perhaps on certain trips, particularly where I might be photographing more wildlife. I see myself pairing my Nikon F5 with a 500mm lens for my next trip to Antarctica this coming December, and to Svalbard in 2020. We’ll see where it takes me!
Now I think it’s time to see it in 120 and large format sheets! Are you listening, Kodak?
P.S. You can check out my prints from Antarctica here. Interested in my drum scanning services? Click here.
About the author: Michael Strickland is a large format landscape and nature photographer based out of Kansas. The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author. You can find more of his work on his website, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. This article was also published here.