Sunday, January 31, 2016

Pittsburgh Photographer's Headshot Meetup

I'm a member of a Pittsburgh Photographer's Group on Facebook.  There are people with a wide variety of backgrounds, interests, and skill levels there.  Members have started organizing periodic meetups, so people can meet each other face-to-face, and, of course, talk about photography.

I thought it would be interesting if instead of just talking about photography, we could meet up and actually do some photography.  To actually see how other people do things, what equipment they use, and how they go about solving problems (photography is often about overcoming limitations to make great photos).

So I decided to organize a headshot meetup event.  In the age of social media, everyone needs a good headshot.  Unfortunately it is really hard to do a good self-portrait with professional equipment.  Selfies don't count.  Besides, try holding 10 pounds of camera at arms length without shaking the camera.

I suggested the idea to the group, and enough people expressed interest to make it worth doing.   I wanted us to have the option of shooting by window light, so evenings were out of the question.  I decided to plan the meetup for a Saturday afternoon at the Panera Bread in Oakland.  Many Paneras have a meeting room you can use, and the one in Oakland has outside windows in their meeting room, so we had our windowlight.

The meetup was a great success.  We had multiple flash setups for people to try, and various reflectors and other light modifiers.  It was interesting to see how others did things, and offer suggestions to those who were new to headshots and portraiture.

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Something Old, Something New, Part 2

Last year I shared an image that was taken using my oldest Nikon lens (a 1983 50mm f1.8 AI-S).  With today's post, I'm going one better.  This image was taken with the oldest lens that I still use, the exotic Sima 100mm f2 Soft Focus lens.  I purchased this lens in 1981, and it predates my 1983 switch to Nikon equipment.  Originally I used this lens with the Konica SLRs I was using at the time.  This lens uses a simple T-Mount adapter to attach to the camera, so when I switched to Nikon, I only needed to swap the Konica adapter for a Nikon one.

The Sima lens is a special-purpose soft-focus lens.  It consists of a single plastic lens element mounted at one end of a tube.  This tube slides back and forth inside a second tube that attaches to the camera.  Sliding the one tube inside the other is how the lens is focused.  The single element is why you end up with a soft image.  When I originally used the lens, I noticed my images had a distinct purple flare to them, so I glued a Cokin filer mount to the front of the lens.  A square UV filter in the holder reduces the purple tint and gives a more natural looking effect.

This isn't a lens you are going to use for every photo, but I find it a useful option for bridal portraits.  This lens gives a romantic, ethereal quality to the portraits.  Last month I was second-shooting a wedding for my friends at Platinum Fire Productions.  We had some extra time prior to the start of the ceremony, so I grabbed my soft-focus lens and asked the bride to stand by one of the large windows in the bridal room (soft window light is one of my "go-to" setups for portraits).  No need for any fill light, and no worries about the side lighting emphasizing imperfections.  A minute later I was done, with the lovely example above being one of my favorites.