In Focus, Bangkok Photography Blog February 14th, 2009

Portrait Head Shots/Dave The Rave Photographs Bangkok



Feature Photograph

The one that got away. Sometimes I get too involved in the moment. I was sitting at the reserve watching the birds fly, swoop, fish, and just generally be birds.. when something beautiful happened and I was so engrossed in the scene I forgot I had a camera. This picture is significant because it was taken 2 seconds too late! And because hopefully it will give you some idea of what I’m talking about below.

Birds absorb heat and air through their feathers and the quills of their feathers. Often you’ll see individual birds turn their backs to the sun and stretch out their wings for a few moments to catch the suns rays and warm up a bit. The picture below shows this from the front.

The picture I missed by two seconds included the entire flock of seabirds. There were hundreds on the ground, and as if by cue, they rotated their backs to the sun and in an order that would make the Chinese Olympic show team proud, stretched out their wings to full span.. one by one, one after the other. For a moment time stood still and hundreds of seabirds stood there with their wings at full span taking in the sun. And then, as I remembered I had my camera and raised it for the picture they started putting their wings down. One wise guy even walked right in front of my camera throwing off the focus! In the blurry background you can see a number of the birds with their wings out, some not. A few seconds too late!

I waited around another hour or so hoping for a repeat performance. I’d never seen this before and I didn’t see it again this day. Instead, I was able to get plenty of standard shots like the one below.. Great shots almost always happen through luck or accident.. and I almost got lucky!

Shooting Bangkok

Dave The Rave is a popular personality in Bangkok’s entertainment industry and runs his own informative blog which you can visit at www.davetheravebangkok.com. I was very pleased to find my mailbox chock full of great pictures from Dave today. These are fun pictures almost anyone can expect to capture with a point and shoot compact camera and more than a bit of knowledge of the Bangkok area. Looking at the pictures I decided to run Dave’s submissions as an outing section vs. a reader's submission. Why? First, because they’re interesting pictures and second because the narrative encourages others to get out there and have fun taking pictures. There is no message more important in this column than having fun with your camera and getting out there and enjoying Thailand!

Wat's Up – Thai Temple Tour (Submitted By Dave The Rave)

I have lived in Bangkok for over 10 years and do not share the opinion with some people that Bangkok is boring. If you are bored of Bangkok, then you must be bored of all cities. This vast, sprawling metropolis never ceases to fascinate me. There is so much to do and see 24 hours a day. Similar to New York, "The City of Angels" never sleeps. It might surprise some people that one of my favourite hobbies is photography. I can be seen taking photos in Bangkok at all hours of the day and night. Why is that? Because there are endless photographic opportunities in Thailand.

I entitled this submission "Wat's Up" because it encapsulates all things associated with Thai temples. (For your info "wat" means temple in Thai). With a little play on words "Wat's Up" is a visual introduction to a selection of 'what is wat' if you catch my drift.

These images were taken with a Sony Cyber-shot DSC (Digital Still Camera) W170. I purchased it in England last August whilst visiting my family. It is classed as a compact camera. What is surprising about this 'little' compact camera, is that it records images at 10.1 megapixels. Other features include a 5 x optical zoom, 28 mm wide-angle lens and a 'super steady shot' feature. All in all, it's a great compact camera. The advantage of these compact cameras, is that you can whip it out of your pocket and capture an image on the spot. Like a gunfighter, you can draw that baby from your hip pocket, shoot your target and leave the other guys to bite the dust!

Kind Regards,

Dave The Rave.

Thank you Dave!

Steve

Portrait Head Shots

I’ve had quite a few requests to talk about portraiture. In the coming weeks I’ll cover several types of portraits and the lenses, setup, and lighting involved. This week we’ll talk about taking head shots with natural lighting. All images in this section were captured with a Canon 70-200mm F2.8 IS lens with an aperture between F2.8-5.6. All were taken handheld, and all with natural light. I want to thank the Monkey Family ahead of time for their patience and cooperation during this demo shoot. It’s always hard to find a willing subject for instructional purposes.

The most common framing is the upper body. The sun is at my back shining on the subject. It’s always better if you can pose them with their body at a 30 degree angle and their head turned towards the camera.

When focusing, focus on the closest eye and the rest of the image will appear properly focused. Using your LCD zoom in and check your focus after every couple of shots.

Try to avoid the straight on head shot. The subject usually ends up looking lost and this type of pose loses dimension.

See how turning the subject slightly improves the depth of the image and the overall look?

Again, zoom in on your LCD and make sure the closest eye is in sharp focus.

Profile head shots can be rewarding, but be sure to capture them with their eyes open. Your subject will tend to blink when they anticipate the shutter being released so timing is critical.

With patience and good technique a proper profile head shot can really show the character of the subject.

Try to avoid bad news during a shoot if at all possible. In this case lunch was postponed and those who work for a living depend on proper nourishment.

Once again, zoom in and check the eyes. You should be able to count the individual eyelashes and hairs of the eyebrow.

Full body shots are often requested during a session, but again make sure you pose the subject at a slight angle and if possible make sure they don’t hold anything in front of their mouth.

I can’t overstress how important it is to zoom in and check the focus of the eyes. Without proper eye focus the entire shot won’t look right and for sure won’t stand up to enlargements.

A good technique to generate extra business is to take a few quick one of the family during the session. In this case the mother and newborn looked on as the father had his headshots captured for his real estate office.

Headshots are requested for all sorts of reasons, agents request shots of the entertainers they represent, businesses often hand employee head shots in view of the public, many professionals put them on business cards, and sometimes you’ll even see them on the side of a bus or on a full size billboard. It’s important you follow the simple rules we just went over, there’s no substitute for good technique when trying to turn out a quality product.

Photography News of Interest

64 gig SD and CF flash memory cards are already on the market albeit at very high prices. Today SanDisk announces their new technology that promises to send 64 gig flash memory cards to market at consumer prices! I personally use SanDisk Extreme series flash memory products for all my professional needs and I highly recommend them. Read about their new technology here.

Last week in the readers questions I recommended a reader wait until the end of the month to purchase a new point and shoot camera because Fuji is releasing their new F200EXR pocket camera with extraordinary technology that promises to revolutionize the digital market. This point and shoot is 12mp’s in normal mode when the light is good, then during low light pairs up the pixels for a 6mp image that sucks up the light, and finally for high-dynamic range scenes it divides the pixels into two separate 6mp images (one of the highlights, one of the shadows) and combines them for an in-camera HDR image! Why aren’t DSLR manufacturers doing this? This is really exciting stuff. Read about the new Fuji F200EXR here.

Hip Dirty Photograph? There is always a different way to do things. You’ll enjoy this article here.

I saved the best for last. In 2005/6 I became acquainted with perhaps the best architectural photographer in the world, Rainer Viertlbock. He was commissioned to photograph the new Bangkok International Airport and subsequently earned several 1st place IPA photographer of the year awards for his work here in Thailand. Our acquaintance led to a friendship and during his stay here I endeavored to answer all his questions about Bangkok and Thailand, and in the process was able to observe and learn. Rainer is interviewed here for his part in the development of the new Sinar ARTEC camera, purpose designed for architectural photography. You can read the interview and learn more about the ARTEC here. (embed on “here” : )


Readers' Submissions

I suspect the readers submissions will be a highly anticipated section of this column and I encourage anyone with photographs and travel accounts they'd like to share to please send them to me at: [email protected]

There was only one reader's submission this week and I posted it as a Outing section above.


Readers' Questions

Steve

I own a Sigma 18-125mm f/3.5-5.6 DC, I use it on a Nikon D80 and have found that at 18mm I get very bad veneting in the corners. Is this normal for this lens or did I get a dud lens? This is what I mean. This is the original full size and no Photoshop work done

Charles

Charles –

Great to hear from you!

Yes, vignetting is a fact of life on all lenses to some degree and this shot appears to have it at the top to a very small degree, and on the bottom more.. which I think is because the flash is unevenly covering the subject. This will be more apparent at wider apertures and wider focal lengths (your sample was shot at 21mm and wide open at F3.5). More expensive lenses ‘should’ exhibit vignetting to a lesser degree. In any case this sort of thing is easily correctable in post processing. What program do you use for post processing?

Looking at your image I’d be more concerned with the sharpness issue. Wide open the lens appears to be about average for its price range, but possibly it would give you a sharper image if you were in single point AF and placed the AF point on her eye. If the eyes are sharp the rest of the image will always look right. With a decent lens you should be able to see definition in the eyebrows and eyelashes – they should be clearly definable.. and a great lens very detailed. In this shot the eyebrows blur together and the eyelashes muddled. This could be the lens, or it could be your focal point was slightly off.

Also, it appears you were using the popup flash at a very close distance.. resulting in a bright top half, and a less bright bottom half. Try backing up a bit, using a longer focal length, and the popup flash will give you better coverage. Popup flashes are never great, but they can be manipulated for decent results.

I hope this helps.

Take care

Steve

Steve

I shot from about 2 meters away, I do have a proper flash but was too lazy to use it that night. But even in daylight I get the same thing. Is 5.6 a good F stop to use for flash? I use Photoshop 9.

Thank you.

Charles

Charles –

Two meters away for the focal length indicated seems about right. This is very close for a popup flash and explains the brighter top half of the frame. Flash, even a nice external flash, is always difficult to use for the best effect.

Yes, you’d get the same vignetting even in daylight. Vignetting is caused by inherent defects in the lens.. usually through design and is linked to barrel distortion. The more barrel distortion you have (common at wider angles) the more vignetting. Better lenses will do this less, but with today’s easy fixes in post-processing even an inexpensive lens can be easily corrected.

In Photoshop go to “filters”, then “distort” and then “lens correction.” You’ll see the vignetting slider about ¾ of the way down. Adjust until gone.

Flash and f-stop aren’t really related where it comes to vignetting. They are related where it comes to distance vs. available light vs. flash power. Aperture (F-stop) controls how much light is let through the lens. The smaller the number (F3.5 in your case) the more light it lets in. The bigger the number (F11-F16) the smaller the aperture and the less light it lets in. A smaller aperture generally means the lens will be operating in the sharper part of its range and will have more depth of field, but it also means you’ll need more light for proper exposure. If close to the subject and the flash has the power then great, the only downside would be the more power the flash uses the more recycle time is needed until the next picture can be taken. But.. the farther you get from the subject and the more power you need.. you might exceed the output capabilities of your flash.. and to compensate you can then open up the aperture (smaller number) to let in more light.

There is a lot of theory to this stuff, much to understand. You might want to try using your Program mode and letting the camera handle the settings for you and then correcting in post processing any vignetting there might be.

I hope this helps.

Steve

Steve

Thank you very much for your help in regards to Vignetting. I have attached 2 version of a photo for you, the first is the original and the second is with same but with the Vignetting fixed.

Charles

Please submit your questions to [email protected] All questions will be answered and most will show up in the weekly column.

A Snapshot of Bangkok Images Week in Review

This week we had only one workshop, but then we took to the road for five days of checking out new places to hold workshops and in the process hopefully we’ll come up with some new material for this column.

I continue to work on a new website design to update the old one at www.bkkimages.com


Infocus Blog

Renewing Your Spirit

Please don’t laugh at me too much.. ;o) Everyone at times, often most of the time, gets so caught up in life that they forget to have fun, to take some time away from their responsibilities, to set aside distractions, and pursue that which renews their soul. I keep telling you guys / girls that photography should be fun, exciting, and most of all it should fulfill your desire to create. A very human desire.

Yet, all too often I forget myself. Not this week! This week I’ve already spent a day at Safari World in Bangkok, did some street photography in Chinatown, and as I write this I’m in a small bungalow outside of Khao Yai National Forest after a day spent hiking on trails and breathing in fresh air.

Tomorrow I’ll be back in the forest in search of waterfalls and wildlife, stay another night, and then I’m driving straight down to Hua Hin and bypassing Bangkok altogether.

Hua Hin stymies me. I want to do an Outing section on Hua Hin, yet in over 15 – 20 visits I can’t find enough that interests me to even take my camera from the bag. I’m going to try again this weekend. Do you have any ideas of things I should look up while in Hua Hin?

In the last few days I’ve witnessed seabirds dancing in step, wild monkeys climbing on the hood of my car and asking for snacks, two separate forest fires with entire mountainsides in flames, one waterfall, kilometers of trails, evergreens, and so much more.

This will have to last me a week or two until heading down to Trat and then on to Ko Chang. Sometimes I think I’m blessed to have the best job in the world. For now I feel new again.

Until next time..