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  • Lighting 103: Takeaways
    Abstract: Some parting thoughts as we wrap up Lighting 103.



    Hopefully, you have enjoyed our discussion of color and light in Lighting 103 v1.0—or at least found it useful as you explore your own lighting.

    Coming next will be a whole new section: The Strobist Lighting Cookbook. (More info on that soon.)

    But for now, here are some takeaways as we wrap up our module on color. Read more »

  • Lighting 103: Becoming More Intuitive with Color
    Abstract: Even an on-camera flash grab shot can be elevated by an intuitive understanding of light and color.



    As your understanding of light and color grows, how does it affect your daily shooting? Like most things that seem complex at first, color pretty quickly becomes a secondary thought process, just like tying your shoes.

    I just had the above archive photo picked up by a nonprofit, to promote children's books. Looking at it, I'm reminded that creating a natural looking color need not be complicated at all.

    This was a little more than a snapshot, done with on-camera flash, and no gels. And the thought process behind the light is a good example of how you'll start to see and control color, even if you're just grabbing a snapshot. Read more »

  • Lighting 103: Using Gels to Shift the Ambient
    Abstract: By combining a white balance shift in your camera with a complementary gelling of your flash, you can easily and efficiently alter the ambient color temperature of an entire environment.



    In addition to controlling the color of light from your flash, gels can also allow you to alter the color of the ambient areas of your frame. The portrait above, done for the Baltimore Sun, is a good example. I made it as a storm approached, and the light was gray and pretty neutral.

    The light was okay, but not great. I really wanted was a stronger color environment for the photo. And I also wanted the subject to pop more. So instead of daylight white balance, I shot it on incandescent (tungsten) white balance. This shifted the expected light source from 5600k to 3200k. In essence, the camera was expecting to shoot under tungsten lights. Read more »

  • First Look: Phottix Juno


    A value-priced, all-manual flash with a built-in radio and a real warranty? Yeah, I'm interested.

    Today, a first look at the new Phottix Juno. Read more »

  • X-Pedition: Cuba
    UPDATE: The January 2017 Havana class has sold out. You can sign up to receive early notification of future workshops, here. -DH



    This January I'm leading a small-group trip to Havana, Cuba. It will be the first in a series of X-Peditions for photographers.

    The last time I was in Havana was 2013, teaching for Santa Fe Workshops. But that was someone else's curriculum. This time the program is ours to design, and we are planning a week of exploring, learning and lots of time behind the camera.
    __________


    An Immersive Week



    This is not the typical photo tour group, which invariably ends up as some version of a photo walk with everyone getting versions of the same pictures. I'm partnering with Focus On The Story, a D.C.-based organization for photographers. The trip leaders are myself and fellow journalist Joe Newman, whom I've known for over 30 years.

    X-Peditions have a maximum of 12 participants, and are very photo-centric. They include daily instruction, location shoots, and plenty of time to explore on your own or with a teammate.

    Our goal with X-Peditions is to help you learn to travel closer to ground level, to travel more lightly, and to learn to see more more efficiently (and effectively) as photographers. We also hope to help you build the knowledge and experience to confidently choose more interesting destinations for your future travels.

    And while we believe this approach is a better way to travel, it also allows us to keep our X-Peditions prices more affordable.


    Photography and Learning

    Please note that this is not a lighting class. Cuba does not allow the import of radio transmitters. In fact, I'm not even bringing a flash. That said, light itself will be a large part of our daily discussions.

    We'll be out shooting at the edges of the day when the light is good, and at other times as dictated by the locations we have lined up. But during the harsh light of midday, we'll typically be in instructional mode. There will be daily talks that not only help prepare you for the day's experiences, but build on your general knowledge around the intersection of photography and travel.

    You'll learn how to prioritize your day to become more efficient at producing higher quality photos. This will help you reserve the time to just be a traveler; to absorb the city and watch the world go by. That downtime is important for you (and for your family, when you travel with them.) It also makes you more receptive to the insights that lead to better photos.

    We are traveling to Havana under a people-to-people license, which means you'll get interaction with locals throughout the week. We'll work both individually and as a group. We'll be editing, comparing notes, evaluating what we can do better and preparing to go out and do it again.

    In the evenings we'll continue the conversation and share our day's experiences, perhaps over a mojito or a glass of Cuba's famous dark rum. This sort of thing is typical when photojournalists are working together (or competing) in a foreign city.


    The X-Factor



    The "X" in X-Pedition is a nod to Fuji's X series cameras. Small, light, quiet and unobtrusive, Fuji X series bodies are near-perfect tools for photojournalists. And they are ideal travel cameras. I took a leap of faith on my first trip to Havana, bringing only a Fuji X100s with its fixed 35mm equivalent lens. In retrospect, it was a great decision. And it has changed the way I approach travel photography ever since.

    So if you are also a Fuji shooter, you can expect specific tips and advice on how to get the most out of your cameras. Or to even borrow a lens if you like.

    Non-Fuji shooters are of course still welcome. And don't worry, we promise not to try to convert you. But we do strongly suggest that you travel very light with respect to photo gear. It's good travel photo advice in general, but also culturally respectful in a place like Cuba where the economic disparity is a factor to consider.


    The Bigger Picture

    Havana is a unique opportunity for photographers. It goes without saying that it is not going to stay unique for very long. The island is experiencing rapid change.

    Our goal with this trip, and with future X-Peditions, is to help you grow as both travelers and photographers; to gain the skills and confidence to choose future destinations that are off the beaten path.

    __________


    The Havana trip for January 2017 has sold out. You can sign up to receive early notification of future X-Pedition or Travel/Light workshops on our workshops page. -DH

  • Upcoming Strobist Events: Buenos Aires, Dublin and Havana
    Just a quick heads-up on upcoming Strobist events. If you are local to Buenos Aires or Dublin—or have ever wanted to spend a photo-centric week in Havana—check out the details below.


    Buenos Aires, Argentina: November 17-19



    I'll be doing a seminar and two workshops in Buenos Aires in November. In the half-day seminar on the 17th, we'll move beyond F/stops and shutter speeds and take a step back to look at photography from a broader perspective. How can you approach your photography in a way that also incorporates your other skills and expertises? How can you turn this approach into sustainable business models and ecosystems?

    Whether your goal is to make money or just to become more aware of and focused on who you are as a photographer, this talk is designed to prompt deeper thought. And because of the Contrastes Magazine's sponsorship, the talk is *free*. Well, at least for subscribers of the magazine. (Which means that if you are not yet a subscriber, the half-day seminar will only set you back the cost of a magazine subscription.)

    On the 18th and 19th, I'll be teaching small-class workshops on lighting. These are shooting workshops, and are appropriate for anyone who wants to learn (or learn more) about small-flash lighting. Because of the sponsorshop, they are also economically priced.

    More details are here: Buenos Aires Workshops


    Dublin, December 3-5



    I'll be both speaking and teaching for the Irish Professional Photographers Association in Dublin in December. More important: Italian photographer Sara Lando will also be teaching here during this time.

    Sara and I will both be speaking on Sunday the 3rd. Sara will talk in the morning about the thousand things you wouldn't think about that go into a successful conceptual portrait session. I'll be talking in the afternoon about how to incorporate your photographic expertise into a wide range of external possibilities—and how to build digital and economic ecosystems around that.

    On Monday and Tuesday the 4th and 5th, I'll be running a two-day, small-flash speedlight bootcamp. This is a small class, and we'll be shooting the whole time. But between us, where you really want to be is in either or both of Sara's two classes. Her unique approach to creative portraiture will cause you to completely re-examine your own approach. Honestly, the less creative you feel you are, the more you can benefit from spending a couple of days with her.

    More details here, with early bird prices in effect until October 31: Dublin Workshops


    X-Pedition Havana, January 12-19



    Our inaugual Strobist X-Pedition is set for Havana, Cuba, from January 12-19. This is not a photo junket. This is an intensive week in perhaps the most photographically (and culturally, economically, etc.) interesting city in the western hemisphere.

    The US government makes it a total pain in the butt to get to Cuba, and it is becoming far more so under the tightening restrictions. But having been there, I can tell you it is well worth the trouble. Go while you still can.

    Our week is designed around learning and photography in a tight, small-group environment. When the light is crap, we'll be indoors learning how to think and see more like a photojournalist. When the light is right, we'll be out shooting. We have several location shoots lined up, and you'll get plenty of time to explore on your own as well. Throughout the week, we'll also be learning to bridge the perception-reality gap for lesser-traveled destinations.

    Our goal by the end of the week is threefold: to make you a more observant and focused traveling photographer, to learn to shoot efficiently while retaining time for yourself and/or family while on the road, and to have the knowledge and experience to grab your camera and confidently head to nearly any place in the world.

    This trip is nearly full. As of this writing, we have only one spot left in our Havana X-Pedition.

    More details: X-Pedition Havana
    __________


    I'm stoked about each of these, and very much hope to see you there.

    -DH

  • Lighting 103: How Designers Gel Live Performances
    Abstract: A dynamic, 3-D scene and hundreds of sources—a talk with a theatrical lighting designer


    Photo © Lucas Krech

    Today in Lighting 103, a little side trip. Fair warning: we are taking a bit of a deep dive. For some of you this will make your eyes glaze over. But for others, it'll be a very cool look into the way live performance lighting designers think with respect to color.

    No worries; we'll be back in the center of the bell curve in the next installment.


    A Chat with Lucas Krech

    New York-based Lucas Krech is a lighting designer who works with operas, dances, plays and performance pieces. He is also is a photographer, which is how we originally intersected via Twitter.

    A ways back, I wrote to him to find out a little more about how people approach the process of lighting live performances. What I got back was basically a firehose/brain dump that gave me a fascinating look into how he thinks. Read more »

  • Lighting 103: Developing a Framework
    Abstract: Think about the reasons behind the color of your lights, and your palette will often take care of itself.



    When you are placing a light source, it's pretty normal to ask yourself, "What color should this light be?"

    If you step back a moment and think, the answer will often present itself. A better question to ask is, "What color would this light be?" Read more »

  • Major Updates to Strobist Lighting Kits


    Strobist lighting kits are the modern day version of the basic speedlight-based setup I carried on my daily newspaper assigments for the better part of 20 years.

    Over the past ten years, the recommended kit has gone through several evolutions. But recently there have been significant updates to several of the components (and a cool addition) making the kit better now than at any other time. I thought the updates merited a shoutout.

    The kits are built around the idea of strong value with thoughtfully chosen components, many with unique features. All components carry best-in-class warranties, and can be expected to give you good service for years. If I was talking to myself as a 20-year-old, I'd advise me to get this before even buying a second lens.

    The lighting kits come in several variations: Single with flash, single without flash, two-light version (two of everthing; but one remote) and add-a flash (one of everything, no remote).


    Current components are as follows, with updates/additions noted:



    Flash: LP180



    The LumoPro LP180 is basically a bullet-proof (not literally, but relatively) manual flash that comes with the stuff you need, without the bells and whistles that you don't.

    Notable features include four-way sync, 1/1 - 1/128 manual power, variable slave, selectable ready tone, smart thermal protection, power equal to or greater than OEM flagship flashes, 1/4"x20 side mount and built-in gel clips. (It also includes a gel kit that covers the most commonly used CC and theatrical colors.)

    Build quality of the LP180 borders on ridiculous. (One was famously destroyed in the field by a leopard. It was replaced.)

    Warranty: twice as long as OEM flagships.

    Price: one-third of OEM flagships.


    Remote: Phottix Ares Original Model



    A legit remote trigger for not much more than the cost of a sync cord. Features include: AA-powered (no weird batteries to find) 8 channels, hot-shoe based mount and excellent reliability. Backed by a two-year warranty.

    I have been teaching with (and using) these remotes for several years now. They are solid.


    Stand: LP605S



    Recently updated; best in class. The LP605S is the classic, 5-section compact stand — except beefier build, and with a couple of unique added features.

    One, it comes with folding ground spikes that will add to stability when used outside. Un-sandbagged umbrellas are always a risk in wind. But you can at least spike this stand and use bare flashes outdoors in a stiff breeze.

    Two, the LP605S come predrilled for a strap, and includes the strap. This is somethng I DIY'd for many years, and the idea has now found its way to what was already the best compact stand on the market.


    Umbrella: LumoPro 3-in-1 Double Fold



    Recently swapped; best in class. Functionally similar to my older Westcotts, but with better build quality, more durability and added features.

    The LP version gives you the choice of the best umbrella surface for any given job. It converts from white shoot-thru, to white reflective (black-backed) and silver reflective.

    Unlike most double-folds, LP 3-in-1 umbrellas do not feel like fragile little flowers right out of the box. They are more substantial, and have lasted far longer than other models in daily use.

    They also come with a slip case the does not make it feel like your umbrella is trying to squeeze into skinny jeans every time you try to case it.


    Swivel: LP679-v2



    Recently updated; best in class.

    Finally, someone has nailed the swivel. The 679-v2 has all of the things common sense dictates in a swivel: removable cold shoe, big arm/smooth hinge, and a cold shoe post lockdown that does not bump up against your flash.

    The recent improvement that sets it apart is in the umbrella lockdown screw. It is big and knurled. God only knows why, but most every other swivel I have seen puts a tiny thumb-mangler lockdown nub there. Why?

    The LP679-v2 is LumoPro listening to photographers' upstream suggestions. As a result it is much better in practical use, comparatively speaking, than other swivels.


    Bonus: Lighting in Layers

    Lighting in Layers was a 6-DVD, 8-hour video tutorial series that sold for $159.99 from 2011 to 2016. (Full info here.) After six printings, the idea of physical DVDs had run its course. And since those DVDs had been very good to our family, I wanted to pay it forward to the next generation of lighting photographers.

    So, all versions of the Jumpstarter kits purchased directly from Midwest Photo now include SD or thumbdrive versions of the Lighting in Layers video series. This is especially cool because one of the Jumpstarter kit versions (single/no flash) actually sells for less than the original cost of the DVDs.

    VERY IMPORTANT, PLEASE NOTE:

    Jumpstarter kits are available both on Amazon (finally!) and directly from Midwest Photo. Only the kits purchased directly from Midwest Photo include the video series. So if the video is important to you, choose Midwest. If not, you can go the easy two-click route through Amazon.



    And A Case



    All Jumpstarter kits (except Add a Light kit, which presumes you already have a case) include a padded shoulder case that big enough to hold a two-light kit and various odds and ends.
    __________


    A Caveat for Sony Users

    If you are a Sony user, your camera may have a non-standard hot shoe. Sigh. Thanks Sony. Which means that this flash and remote (and, sadly, many other lighting components) may not fit your camera.

    Fortunately, there are workarounds. Sony shooters are advised to email Midwest Photo and they will step you through any adapters you may need.



    Different Versions / Where to Buy

    The Jumpstarter kits are now also available via Amazon, which makes for a super-easy (two clicks) way to order. If you go that route, understand that the Amazon versions do not come with the lighting videos. That is a Midwest Photo in-store exclusive. Other that that, they are identical to the Midwest versions.


    • If you already own a flash, single version without flash:

    Midwest Photo (includes Lighting in Layers video): $147.99

    Amazon, DOES NOT INCLUDE VIDEO: $147.99


    • Single version, includes LP180 flash:

    Midwest Photo (includes Lighting in Layers video): $276.99

    Amazon, DOES NOT INCLUDE VIDEO: $276.99


    • Two-light kit (portable, wireless 2-light studio, professional quality, for less than the cost of a single Nikon or Canon flagship flash):

    Midwest Photo (includes Lighting in Layers video): $479.99


    • Single add-a-light kit (includes flash but no remote or case):

    Midwest Photo (includes Lighting in Layers video): $203.00

  • Lighting 103: Learning From Your Couch
    Abstract: Don't just look to still photos for inspiration. Great inspiration also awaits you on your TV.



    We may think we are getting a good feel for color as photographers. But you know who kicks still photographers' butts every day? Cinematographers, that's who.

    Today, a look at some examples from 2010-era Dr. Who, which we have talked about on this blog before. These guys are near and dear to my heart, because they are unabashedly fearless when it comes to using color to manipulate light—and their viewers. Read more »