Some random things from April and how to shoot backlit subjects.

I always have trouble making blog posts when things start to get busier.  So I just wanted to post a few random pictures from this month. I decided to talk mostly about the first picture I highlighted below.  This was a very difficult situation, as soon as I saw where they were having the ceremony I knew it was going to be a problem.  The sun was very bright outside, almost fully up in the sky.  The ceremony was held under a beach shelter right on the edge of the bright sunlight.  If you have ever tried to photograph something like this before, you might know what would happen.  If you let the camera make the decisions, the couple would be almost completely dark because it’s trying to adjust for the bright background light.

I long ago started shooting on manual, so I would expose for the couple and not the background.  This way the camera’s own adjustments would not cause the subject to come out really dark.  However, there is still a problem.  If you just expose the couple properly, the background would then be completely blown out, it would just be a very bright glow behind the couple.  The couple would have kind of a flat, lifeless light on them with an annoyingly glowing background.

So how do you fix this? Well it really comes down to having the proper equipment.  I have these things called Pocket Wizards, they allow me to have a flash on the camera and also another flash off of the camera that is controlled by radio.  You can control another flash through  the built in infrared in the Nikon flashes, but it never works very well.  The Pocket Wizards work the same way, but they are much more reliable especially in sunlight.  Although you can let the flashes decide how much power they need to put out on their own, under this difficult lighting, I thought manual would be better.  I set my on camera flash (that had a tiny Lumiquest softbox on it) and my external flash both to 1/2 power, that seem to be a pretty good compensation for the outside ambient light without overdoing it.  If you notice in this picture, there is a nice light coming from the side of the couple that makes them look more three dimensional.  You can see some shadows from his hand and her arm, these are not from the sun but are from my external flash.

If this sounds too complicated, to make it more simple.  If you are trying to photograph a backlit subject in the shade, use whatever flash you have available, even just the little one on the camera.  Set your camera to manual and keep taking shots until you see the couple is as bright as they need to be.  I hope you enjoy some of the pictures below.

First kiss - Myrtle Beach State Park
First kiss - Myrtle Beach State Park

That's a lot of groomsmen -
That's a lot of groomsmen

View post Some random things from April and how to shoot backlit subjects.

Quick review of the Sigma 85mm f1.4 lens with Bridal and Engagement pictures

As I mentioned in my last blog post, I purchased a new lens, the Sigma 85mm EX DG HSM f1.4.  This quick review is from using a full frame Nikon D700 camera with this lens. I typically only buy Nikon lenses, so I have some top of the line lenses to compare the Sigma too, such as the latest Nikon 24-70 f2.8.  Nikon’s high end lenses have incredible optics and lens coatings that really control typical problems like chromatic aberration and lens flare.  My main concern is taking the highest quality pictures possible, currently Nikon’s 85mm f1.4 lens is $1700 vs $1000 for the Sigma which is a nice difference, but the big problem is you just can’t buy Nikon’s version.  I checked all of Nikon’s authorized dealers and I just can’t find it in stock.  I had read really good reviews of the Sigma lens from photographers such as Ryan Brenizer that I really respect, so I decided I would give it a try.

First of all, the lens has beautiful Bokeh, or the nice smooth out of focus areas in the background and foreground.  At f1.4, you are going to get a very shallow depth of field, a very small area of the picture that is in focus.  However, different lenses even at the same aperture, can vary a lot in the quality of the out of focus area or Bokeh. The out of focus areas of a picture can be as important as the in focus areas. I included the first shot below, not as an example of a really good picture, but because I wanted to show the quality of the Bokeh.  If you notice there is very little flare from the sun, even in the harsh lighting conditions.  The spots of light coming through the trees have turned into beautiful rounded discs, this means there is a high quality rounded aperture.  Of course I knew the Bokeh would be nice from the reviews I had read.

Focus and handling of the lens is really something you need hands on time with to know if it works for you.  My Nikon lenses such as the 24-70 and 70-200 focus extremely fast on the Nikon D700 body.  I knew the Sigma would not be that fast, but I’m pleasantly surprised with how quickly and spot on it locks the focus.  I occasionally miss focus on a shot, but it always seems to be my fault. When you are shooting wide open at f1.4 you have to be really careful to keep your subject in focus, it’s almost impossible if they are moving.  I actually was more afraid of shooting at f1.4 than I should have been, almost all my shots had almost perfect focus, or at least close enough it looked good.

To sum up my quick review, so far I’ve found the Sigma to have excellent focus, beautiful Bokeh, and fast performance.  I haven’t tried it in low light yet such as at a wedding reception, so I will see how it goes.  But so far I’m more than happy with the results I’ve been getting.  I hope you enjoy some of the shots below, they were all shot with the Sigma 85mm wide open at f1.4.  I’ll update this after using the lens more this summer, so far it seems like an excellent addition to my always growing bag of gear.

Note: If the things I talked about in the post sound confusing, there are lots of links that explain everything.  You will learn a lot if you check them out.

Update to this article: A few days after I wrote this I actually found the Nikon version of this lens in stock at the Nikon store for $1699.  I ordered this and will likely be returning the Sigma.  Everything I said about the Sigma is true, it’s a fantastic lens.  So why did I get the Nikon?  It’s all about build quality.  I was getting frustrated at my recent wedding because it was raining and I knew the Sigma is not weather sealed.  While the picture quality is fantastic, I use my lenses so much and in such harsh conditions I decided I should go with the Nikon.  Nikon builds their high end lenses like a tank, and while the build quality of the Sigma is fine, I decided I would prefer the weather sealing of the Nikon.  But if you aren’t a pro, get the Sigma.  It’s great for normal use.

Example of Bokeh from Tamron Lens
This image is just here to show the quality of the Bokeh

Sunlight hitting the veil - Bridal Portrait - Myrtle Beach
Sunlight hitting the veil - Bridal Portrait - Myrtle Beach

View post Quick review of the Sigma 85mm f1.4 lens with Bridal and Engagement pictures

Random things during the busy summer and the wedding documentary gallery

I’ve been meaning to put up a new blog post for a while.  Myrtle Beach is just in it’s busiest time right now, and I’m always backed up with work, which is a good thing but it makes it hard to do extra things like posting to the blog.  It also doesn’t help I got strep throat and now that I’m off my antibiotic it seems to be coming back, and I almost never get sick. So instead of trying to concentrate on one subject I decided to just put up a few random pictures I’ve really liked over the past month.

One new thing you will notice on the website, I’ve put up a new gallery called wedding documentary.  The idea for this is to put up more candid pictures that I might not put in a gallery otherwise.  I always have lots of pictures I really like, but I just don’t think they are suitable to put in as my main examples of my work.  The idea for this gallery is a place for these more raw, less perfect and touched up images.  I’m going to try to stick to pictures that are truly candid and unexpected, or sometimes perhaps a really silly picture even if the client knows I’m taking it that wouldn’t make it into the gallery otherwise.

I’ve also been experimenting with the new Nik Software Color Efex Pro 3 software.  I used the bleach bypass filter for the first image below, it’s a cool effect.  I’ve just got to get used to working this software into some images in my workflow and figuring out what I like.  Below I’m going to put some examples that are in the new wedding documentary gallery, as well as just a few other random shots I liked.  As always if you enjoy some of these pictures please click the like button below.

Groomsmen waiting on the second floor - Ocean Club - Grande Dunes
Groomsmen waiting on the second floor - Ocean Club - Grande Dunes

Bridal party in the sunset - Ocean Club - Grande Dunes
Bridal party in the sunset - Ocean Club - Grande Dunes

View post Random things during the busy summer and the wedding documentary gallery

Small wedding at Ocean Isle Beach, NC

I had a very nice small wedding up in Ocean Isle Beach, NC this past weekend.  There was only about 40 guests and a small wedding party. Small weddings can be nice because everyone is generally more relaxed.  You can’t tell how large a wedding is anyway in my favorite type of pictures, the expressions on people’s faces are the important thing.  Ocean Isle is a bit of a drive from my usual area around Myrtle Beach, I don’t make it up there very often, but it is a really pretty area and it’s a lot less crowded then down here at the beach.

This wedding was held at a pretty difficult time of day for pictures, right around early afternoon.  Thankfully the sun wasn’t directly overhead, but it was still pretty high in the sky.  I’m getting quite good at being able to look at the light even in difficult conditions and get nicely exposed shots without any more harsh shadows than can be helped.  I was actually really happy with the way the family pictures turned out even though the sun was so bright, final adjustments in Lightroom always help as well.  I did some shots of the couple right after the ceremony, then we went out right before sunset to do some more pictures of just the two of them.  By then it had become very cloudy but at least the rain held off until the evening.  You can’t control what the natural light is going to do outdoors, you just have to learn to work with it.  But if you do have the choice when planning for pictures, evenings right before sunset are best.  The next best is earlier in the day but cloudy or in some shade, then finally the worst is full sun at noontime.  Think about this when doing your own photography.  I hope you enjoy some of the shots below.

Happy smiles - Ocean Isle Beach - NC
Happy smiles - Ocean Isle Beach - NC

Lacing up the dress - Sunset Beach - NC
Lacing up the dress - Sunset Beach - NC

View post Small wedding at Ocean Isle Beach, NC

Wedding at Brookgreen Gardens – Murrells Inlet

It’s been a long time since I did a wedding at Brookgreen Gardens. It’s a really pretty area and weddings there always seem to turn out beautiful. This ceremony was at the Holiday Cottage, which was the same location I had a wedding the last time. I guess they also have weddings in another part of the gardens as well, but the cottage area is very nice.  In the past the only way a photographer could work in the gardens was if they were working for a wedding. However, the wedding coordinator at the Holiday Cottage told me they have a new policy.  I need to check into it, because I would love to be able to do engagement pictures from time to time. I believe they charge a substantial amount for doing a shoot in the gardens, but it might very well be worth the price for a couple. Anyway, I had a lot of pictures I really liked. I tried to pick out some of them so I could have a reasonable length blog post. I hope you enjoy them below. If you like the pictures, don’t forget to make a comment, and click the Facebook like button above.  You can also subscribe to this blog at the bottom of the page.

Bride in doorway of Holiday Cottage - Brookgreen Gardens

First look - Walking to see groom for the first time in dress - Brookgreen Gardens

View post Wedding at Brookgreen Gardens – Murrells Inlet

Third year with family – Myrtle Beach State Park

I just wanted to make a quick blog post about this recent family session. This is my third time working with this family. They were one of the groups I photographed back when I was really just getting started, I’ve learned quite a bit since then, but they always seem happy. It’s nice to see the same faces over and over again. Every year I seem to get the cutest shots with the kids. They both have really big eyes that just seem to reflect the light perfectly. The family wanted something a bit different this year, so I took them around the oak trees in the Myrtle Beach State Park, and that seemed to work out really well. I love some of the shots of the girls looking through the trees. I could have put up a bunch of pictures, but I tried to pick just a few of my favorite below.

View post Third year with family – Myrtle Beach State Park