Glen Goffin Photography

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Images That Could've Been - The Montreal Umbrella

I was perusing some old shots of Montreal which were, in general, not horrible; probably some where between ... and ....  But this one caught my attention because not because of what it is but because of what it could've been - missed possibilities.

So I thought maybe I would just write up a quick self-critique and then maybe invite you guys to comment, too.  I welcome your thoughts.

I'll start with the obvious stuff.

The Sky
A yucky, uninteresting white blob.  I had thought I would use the curb as a line running out to infinity but that left a big open, overcast sky.  This is the first reason I should have changed my angle and put more of the building in view.

The Foreground
In the puddle are some leaves but you can't really see them ... or anything because that big white ugly sky was reflected in the puddle.  At least there are some clouds for texture but by shifting over I could've put the building reflection there.  But, more importantly, I could've put the UMBRELLA there!

The Umbrella
That red umbrella could've been teh perfect focal point for the shot.  The overcast, dreary color palette could've had this pop of color.  I could've tried to get it reflected in the puddle.  gahh.  Lazy.   I was focused on the perspective lines formed by the tracks and the curb but I got the horizon crooked.  Learn .... that's the key.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Improving Your Self-Portraits

Ok, maybe it's cheating.  But one sure fire way to make yourself look better ... Press a pretty girl against your face.  See how it did wonders for me!

MJ was on her way out to meet some friends and, since she was dressed up anyway, I grabbed her for some quick portrait practice.  We have some pretty good sized windows in our bedroom that happen to face north-ish.  So I quickly setup the tripod, grabbed a gold reflector panel and my wife and squeezed.  The shutter.  I squeezed the shutter button.  Ok, maybe I squeezed MJ, too.  Hey, whatever it takes to get a smile!

I heard it said somewhere recently (I think it was from Chuck Arlund) that it is easier to warm up a portrait than it is to remove a yellow cast.  So he doesn't shoot with gold reflectors but with silver ones.  Since silver ones are actually neutral color, what is really happening is that the color cast of the natural light is being carried as-is.  No additional warming.

I agree with him about yellow cast removal.  For some reason skin tones get all finicky when you remove yellow.  I haven't figured out exactly why that is yet.   Of course, skin tones contain a lot of yellow, but even keeping that in mind, it seems to be difficult to do.  This shot was an example.  I used a gold reflector panel and it added a goldish hue.  Not entirely unattractive but not entirely natural looking either.  Every attempt to neutralize it made it look worse.

BTW - Speaking of Chuck Arlund and Niel van Niekirk.  If you haven't read their blogs, it is very good reading.  Both of them share quite liberally their lessons and techniques especially related to flash / strobe work.  Check them out here:

Neil Van Niekirk

Chuck Arlund


Thursday, June 17, 2010

Canon 35mm f/1.4 Impressions

So MJ, David and I went to Israel on vacation.  This image is from the ampitheater at Caesarea.  What a great trip, btw.  Our guide was a blast ... and so so knowledgeable.  We decided he was a mix between Marty Feldman and Yoda.  More on that next post.

Before the trip, I really struggled with what kit to bring.  In the end, I decided to go light and brought my trusty 85mm and a rented 35mm f/1.4.  I brought the 35 because I was in this crisis of decision for a mid-range prime ... 35mm or 50mm?   I wanted a lens that gives us some context.  A lens that tells more story.  But I also want it to flatter my brides and grooms.  I was afraid the 35mm would make for some big noses.

So what's the verdict?

I loved it.  Totally.  The image at the top shows that this lens has the "magic".  Color, bokeh, sharpness, perspective ... all beautiful.  The size is that perfect feel of not too big and not too small.  I will say that the the vignetting can be a bit pronounced.  But I like that.  I usually add vignetting in post anyway.  If I had anything at all bad to say it might be that the bokeh can get just a bit squirrely.  But in a way that is still visually appealing.

I came back from the trip with credit card in hand and placed my order.  Weeks later ... no lens and no availability date.

Now what?  So I took chance and purchased the 50mm f/1.2 instead.  Did I do the right thing?  Jury is still out.  I'll post a few more from each lens and we can decide.

What do you think of this 35mm?


Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Bounce Flash Woes in Concert

I was recently hired to shoot some art for Wendy Schettig a local musician now cutting her second CD.  She had asked if I might come and shoot a concert she was giving at a nearby coffee shop.  The coffee shop was quite dark but the challenge with concert photography is that you can't easily setup the kind of lighting you might want.

Here I chose to use some on-camera bounce flash with a Honl hood to narrow the direction a bit more.  The venue was very small so I used a 70-200mm and shot from the sides.  The obvious problem ... STUFF!   Music stands, mic stands, guitar heads and tuners ... grrrrr.   

All in all, the bounce flash seemed to work.  There is a bit of shine on Wendy's face but that can be easily fixed.  Fortunately, I kept the overall level low enough that the overheads acted as weak rim lights and added some highlights to her hair.

Lesson - remember to use the CTO gels!  As you can see here, I didn't blend the light color well enough so white balance was a nightmare.  I had to try to adjust for skin tone but it left the very yellow light in her hair.

Props to those concert photogs out there.  It ain't easy, that's for sure.  But it is definitely fun.


Saturday, April 17, 2010

Brianna Graham and the Big Gun

As promised, here is another sample shot from the new Canon 70-200mm f/2.8L USM IS II.   These were backyard shots.  This one of my wife with ambient light at 200mm and f/2.8.  There is a bit (too much) of photoshop work here but you can see that the lens has nice sharpness and blur and is certainly a good portrait lens.  The more I use it, the more I like.  I still tend to just leave it at 200mm and use it like a prime because .... well ... that's how I roll.

I recently got turned on to Brianna Graham through Professional Photography Magazine where they posted this article written about her by Stephanie Boozer  - "Color Theory".  It is filled with luscious images of vibrant color and texture and some tips from Brianna.  Well worth the 10 minutes it takes to read it.  She is clearly an advocate for good strobe lighting and lots of post-processing but her color and texture sensibilities are outstanding and inspiring.

Until later - peace out bean sprouts,

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

The Canon 70-200mm f/2.8 USM IS II ... Hold Still You!!!

Ok, I violated my own rule and now I'm wondering if I am going to have to kick my own butt.  After weeks of research into the best telephoto lens to use for weddings, it came down to the prime 135mm f/2.0 or the brand new 70-200mm f/2.8 USM IS II zoom which just got released this month.  I've always been a "prime-guy" for a lot of reasons so this would be a violation of my "prime-cipals".

On my way down to New York Camera on Saturday, I made a deal with myself.  If they have the 70-200mm in stock, knowing how popular and hard it is to get, I'm going to get it.  When the salesman returned with a box and a smile - I looked down and somehow my credit card had mysteriously appeared in my hand.  The rest is a blur.

Fast forward - now I have this lens and it is BEAUTIFUL!!  No doubt.  But it is LOOONNNGGG!  No, really.  I mean it physically extends out a long long way from the body.  Wow.  It is exquisitely crafted in metal and has an almost mystical feel.  I love holding it.  Well, except for one thing.  It is stinkin' HEAVY!!  Maybe I'm spoiled by my 85mm (which I thought was heavy at the time).  Dunno.  Maybe this is what separates the pros from the amateurs - shoulder strength.

In an effort to tame this beast, I've begun research into the best way to hold it.  I am typically a natural light photog so I generally run slightly longer exposures.   And weddings don't typically afford the opportunity to let you rest the lens on anything.  The IS (image stabilization) is killer on this lens but not quite enough for me unless I can find a way to hold this bazooka still.  If not ... well ... anyone looking to buy an ever so slightly used 70-200mm USM IS II??

So ... here are some tips I've uncovered for holding a telephoto lens.

Boxer stance
I read a comment from "neonzu" that I found interesting.
I find shooting left-eye-to-the-viewfinder allows me to comfortably assume a stable “boxer” stance i.e. left foot forward,left elbow in to my left side where there’s less movement from breathing, and hand on the zoom ring when appropriate (especially when panning on a subject that’s moving closer or farther).

Joe McNally - "Da Grip"
Joe illustrates his version of the "boxer stance" with a twist or two.  My problem is that I'm a right-eye dominant shooter.  Hmmm.  Maybe it's time to change?

Advice from a Rifle Sniper
I also found some advice from a rifle expert (Costas) where he points to some sniper primers:

So really, none of this is new.  But now that I actually have to wield this hairy beast, these tips suddenly take on a whole new importance!  Thanks to Joe McNally and everyone.   You may have saved my butt from my own boot ... hmmm ... or else I'll realize I was right all along.  Stick to primes.  More later.

PS - if you're curious to see some example pics from the big gun, here are some quick shots in the back yard.  No post processing on these samples so you can see what it does.  All of these are at f/2.8 at varying focal lengths. The image at the top is also one. Perhaps I'll do an informal review, or at least some impressions of this lens. We'll see.


Tuesday, April 13, 2010

94 A Short Side-Track

For the former few weeks, I've been recounting my journey of website development exercising my marginally coherent babbling skills which is appropriate as it reasonably reflects my normal stream-of-consciousness. And, before things get too comfortably linear and predictable, let me take you on another completely off-track and unnecessary rabbit trail.  The trail is short but the place you find will absorb you for hours.   It is a collection of thoughts and thinkers that I find disconcertingly addicting -  Or, even more specifically:   TED Gallery.  Even if you don't agree with what they say, it challenges your preconceptions at the very least.

BUT WAIT ... before you go ... take a quick listen to this.  Hopefully it will encourage you as much as it does me.  Turn it up!

Jeremy Riddle - Sweetly Broken


Thursday, April 8, 2010

93 Blogger Tip - Adding a Flash Slideshow Header

I'm really excited about the new "Blogger in Draft" features that Google have released.  If you are a Google blogger, you really should try them.  Simply go here:   There are two really cool features that I've begun to explore - Advanced Templates and CSS.

Hopefully you may have noticed that I now have this rad slideshow header.  Previously, the editing tools didn't allow you to insert HTML or javascript references into the header banner.  The best you could do was an image and a simple line of text.  That's why most blogger sites have the same vibe.  Along with that annoying blogger strip at the very very top.  That's my next project - getting rid of that thing somehow.

Once you're in, navigate to the template designer, pick your template and then move to Layout (as above).   You'll see that you now have a banner below the header (yay!).  You'll have to leave template designer to update that widget.  At the top of this screen is a menu item:  "Back to Blogger".  Use that and then go to Customize -> Layout.  There you will be able to add script to your banner.  It should look something like this:

Now you can edit each section.  If you are a SmugMug user like me, you would add script like the following (sorry for the small type):

and VOILA!   All I have to do is add images to a particular gallery and they get fed to the banner.


PS - I've started a new site aimed at brides and wedding planners.  Let me know what you think of it.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

92 Being Teachable

(c) Glen GoffinIn David DuChemin's pixelatedimage:blog today, he used a phrase that I often use but have never written about - "having a teachable spirit".   Coincidentally, there was an incident last night about being teachable on the TV show - "Dancing With the Stars".  My wife was watching and I was playing "Photoshop gopher".  You know, that's when you're hunkered down on the couch with Photoshop, you lift your eyes about 1/4 inch above the lid of your Macbook and, while keeping your head stationary, sweep your eyes quickly to-and-fro over the horizon.  Then, seeing that all is safe, you pop your head back down again.  You do this whenever you hear a sound that catches your attention ... especially if it is something that sounds like, "ARE YOU LISTENING TO ME!?!!"