Jenny light painting with steel wool
Last week my friend Jenny and I were finally able to get together and play with some steel wool. We had been talking about exploring this popular genre of photography for a while now. Since none of us had tried it before, the idea was to get familiar with the nuances and work on technique before we tackle our more ambitious creative ideas. It turned out to be some of the easiest fun I’ve had with photography in a while.
Basic light painting supplies
After some quick googling, I found out it was pretty simple to put together. There are of course way more elaborate ways of doing this but I very much prefer the path of least resistance. This means less time tinkering, and more time practicing photography. All you really need is some steel wool, a wire whisk, some steel wire/cable and a lighter. It turns out I already had all I needed laying around the house.
Our first try
Steel wool burns very fast. We did almost two dozen takes. Each take lasted mere seconds but were a veritable light show, even more so on camera as you can see. I set the Canon 5D Mark III on a tripod. My Model, Jenny, held a candle in front of her face while standing on a predetermined spot. This helped me acquire focus on her in live view. I then switched to Manual Focus, and set my shutter to about 5 seconds. This covered most of the take from start to finish. I would light the wool for her, jump out of the frame and trigger the shutter, using and infra red remote control. We got the hang of things pretty quickly. We are definitely ready for our more creative ideas. I can’t wait!
Molten steel embers/sparks can be very very hot. Although they are generally too small to be of any concern, some larger globs/chunks/drops will break loose and continue burning where ever they land. I kept a water hose close by just in case I had to put one out. I also keep several canisters of fire extinguishers on hand at all times. You cannot be too careful. Please allow ample space and nothing flammable around you.
Crimson sunset over Boston – Canon 5D Mark III + EF 24-105mm f/4
This past Wednesday the fog and rain gave way for partly cloudy skies over Boston. What this meant for me was spectacular light shows at sunset, depending on what types of clouds were forming overhead. Usually this kind of weather leads to higher altitude clouds, the best kind. At sunset they reflect the red sunset light from the horizon back down against a backdrop of clear blue skies. The full spectrum of colors are just magical, a real treat.
All you have to do is show up about an hour before sunset, find a good vantage point, kick back and enjoy the magic hour. I spent some time on my flight and in the airports planning this shot, looking for the right perspective on the city at sunset and also the best unobstructed view of the skyline. Fortunately this key vantage point happens to be a public park. Thank you City of Boston for protecting this view for all! I often have to go places I really shouldn’t go, and the risks to myself and my gear are really not necessary – however often worth the shot.
Fine tuning manual focus on the EF-S 17-55mm f/2.8 before starting the HDR time lapse
Sunset was around 8:30pm. I arrived the North Harbor before 7pm and scouted a bit before settling on this view. By 7:30pm I had configured and set off the 7D Mark II for a 3 hour HDR time lapse. What an amazing camera. When properly configured, you can save days of post processing time when doing HDR time lapse photography. I hope to post a how to on this soon. With the 7D Mark 2 on time lapse duty and time to spare before magic hour, I turned to setup the 5D Mark III.
Magic Hour is here!
I brought the beastly EF 300mm f/2.8L IS Mark II on this trip, however it was a bit too long for this scene. The EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II would have been better suited. So I resorted to the trusted and versatile EF 24-105mm f/4L IS. It allowed me to switch from wide to telephoto with relative ease and enough detail for a signature high resolution panoramic shot. From this point on, with all my settings dialed in, it was pretty straight forward. So I just enjoyed the view and captured the magic. I am pleased with the shots I got and will be posting sneak peeks as soon as get them processed.
The final shots will be released as Limited Edition fine art canvas prints. The HDR time lapse shots will eventually be available as 4K video for anyone to license and use in their projects/productions. The video will also eventually accompany all limited edition prints in the form of a DVD screensaver. Here are some behind the scenes shots from this outing.
Managed to fit it all into the LowePro!
Setting up the 7D Mark II for HDR time lapse
Fine tuning manual focus on the EF-S 17-55mm f/2.8 before starting the HDR time lapse
All setup and ready for Magic Hour
Magic Hour is here!
I’m always behind the camera and forget to get proof that I was actually there! …LOL
Beautiful color changes
Quick panorama shot with phone.
Where was this shot taken?
Vancouver at Sunset via Olympic Village, False Creek – Canon 5D Mark III + Canon EF 24-105mm f/4L IS USM
If you ever visit Vancouver BC, do take a stroll around Olympic Village at sunset. The views of the skyline are breathtaking. The people are friendly and outgoing. The air is crisp and water always calm. This makes for an almost magical visual experience. This is really why I do this – being able to personally immerse myself in, witness such beauty all around me and capture it. It is priceless.
Below are some behind the scenes shots. This shot will most definitely make it to large format limited edition print. Have you been to or live in Vancouver? What were some of your favorite views on the city? Thanks for stopping by and sharing.
Vancouver at Sunset via Lonsdale Quay – Canon 5D Mark III + Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM
A while ago I took a quick trip up to Vancouver for the weekend. Ever since I looked up this city I fell in love with this skyline. It is so beautiful and picturesque from every angle. The entire bay offers breathtaking views. The air is always fresh, clean and crisp, often times even when overcast (as it very often is) or raining. This my friend, is Vancouver! I researched this view from Lonsdale Quay Market before arriving and it did not disappoint. The 200mm focal length was a bit on the short side but it allowed me to frame some of the city light reflections on the water as well as the clouds which were less than ideal, but nothing ever works out as planned. The water did however calm down at just the right moment during “magic hour” and the city revealed itself. I was more than ready to capture it!
I shot this panoramic with the Canon 5D Mark III and EF 70-200mm f/2.8 IS II USM lens. It is composed of 9 HDR shots each composed from brackets of 3 extended exposure shots. I did this to normalize the water surface as much as possible and limit ghosting on the surface. The final panorama is about 120 Megapixels. I shot an HDR time lapse of the entire sunset with the 7D Mark II. I used a new technique made possible by 7D Mark II’s speed and image processing power which I hope to document on here at some point.
Below are some behind the scenes shots of my travel setup. The shot above will most likely make it to limited edition print. It still needs a little clean-up work. Please feel free to leave any questions, thoughts, feedback or ideas you may have. As always thanks for stopping by and sharing.
Setup in time for sunset after scouting the Quay
5D Mark III + 70-200/2.8L IS II on the left, 7D Mark II + 17-55/2.8 IS on right, Manfrotto travel tripods.
Magic hour approaching
Bingo! Show time! Extended exposure HDR panoramic.
As part of my new year resolution, I plan on photographing something each week and post about it. I’m hoping this goal will motivate me to explore new photography subjects and techniques and grow as a photographer. So here we go!
Tonight I decided I wanted to come up with a magazine quality product shot of a bottle of one of our favorite liquors: Tequila. I don’t really drink hard liquor (anymore), so I tend to amass a sizable assortment of the stuff every time I throw a party. I have several bottles of Milagro in my stash and have always liked their design and presentation.
I shot with the Canon 5D Mark III and the Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM lens. I cannot say enough about how versatile this lens is. For lighting I used two Canon 430EX speedlights in full manual mode. On one I had a Strobies softbox and the other a honeycomb and lavender blue gel. The bottle was placed on a piece of black plexiglass I had laying around my workshop. I posted a cell phone shot of my setup. It was a good and fun exercise to shoot a product shot using the bare essentials and with no editing. The JPEG compression does not reproduce the subtle colors well. Without further ado, here’s what I came up with.
Happy New Year!!!
This year I decided to stop thinking about watching (photographing) the fireworks over the San Francisco Bay and actually get out and do it. One of my good friends and great photographer, Steve was only happy to come along and plan our New Year’s Eve photo excursion. We decided, since we were going to be out in the cold weather we may as well catch the sunset over the city. I had been wanting to revisit my last shoot from the Port of Oakland where I shot my last time lapse of the Bay Bridge lights. This time my focus was to obtain a really good high quality wide panorama shot for large format print and reproduction. I did however capture a time lapse of the sunset and city lights as well. It’s hard not to, as it has become fairly easy for me with my 7D and 17-55mm f/2.8 lens. I’ve shot so many time lapses with that combo, it only takes a few minutes to setup.
Magic hour over the city only lasts for a few minutes, and I found it very challenging to capture a full panoramic set of the city with a long enough exposure at a narrow enough aperture (f/8 or smaller). This was due primarily to the amount of the disturbance on the water from boats, ferries and large cargo ships. While you might see a few minutes of calm, they are punctuated by wakes, shadows of moving vessels and light streaks. My frustrations were only compounded by the fact that I decided to use my EF 2x Extender III on the 70-200mm f/2.8. I chose the wrong time to experiment. Under anything other than perfect lighting conditions you will find it exceedingly difficult to use any lens with the 2X extender III. As a result, I missed easily half of my photo opportunities. Below are some panoramic shots I managed to salvage. The detail is pretty impressive – you can see inside offices and hallways in all those buildings you see. The full res compressed JPEG is just under 200MB and the master GIMP file is 1GB (1000MB).
Canon 5D Mark III + EF 2x Extender + EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II
Canon 5D Mark III + EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II
We shot through the sunset till about 9pm then we packed up and headed out to treasure island to scout for a good angle on the action. I have never seen this many photographers and enthusiasts in one place. The whole island was crawling with people like me. Even in the seemingly remote bushes along back roads. We finally settled on the waterfront as the best vantage point. Fireworks are a challenge to shoot! This was my first time shooting fireworks and nothing could have prepared me for it. Below is a collection of some of the highlights. Overall I think it was a success. There are a few things I would’ve done differently now. Your feedback would be highly appreciated.
I was also able to capture a time lapse of the fireworks. The entire show lasted about 13minutes. It was a spectacular affair. If you missed it, the time lapse compilation below should help you enjoy the experience in a matter of seconds. My new years gift to you. I wish you a Happy and Prosperous New Year!