Sunday, April 25, 2010

Purdue Grand Prix...

Every now and then I am offered an opportunity to go and shoot something to give back to the photographic community, as well as to the University that I received my education at. I say received as though they offered me that education freely, where as though in reality I paid (and am still paying) quite a bit for it. When in contact with a Student organization I used to be involved with, my shooting of the 53rd annual Purdue Grand Prix race came up, to which I couldn't refuse. I had already planned on going up to Lafayette that weekend to see some very good friends from a galaxy far far away (Utah, Pennsylvania and the like) so I thought, why not. They would be partaking in their own festivities that day so it seemed like a great opportunity.

(Nikon D3, 500ISO, Nikon 70-200mmF2.8VR@190mm, 1/1600th@F2.8)

That was a relatively common scene in the Pitts on Saturday at the Race as it looked pretty gloomy outside. Ok maybe that's not what she was contemplating, for all I know she could have been contemplating her decision to eat Taco Bell for lunch or the decision to paint her fingernails red on such a doom and gloom stormy day. Little did I know at the time, but this young lady was standing next to the car that would win it all in the end. It just goes to show you that sometimes you are in the right place at the right time. For me, I just happened to notice this young lady, and decided to make the picture. This was a great opportunity for me to shoot and make some very journalistic black and white photos, which isn't part of my normal routine.

(Nikon D3, 220ISO, Nikon 70-200mmF2.8VR@200mm, 1/1250@F2.8)

No lights, no tripods, no products, no models or wild complex setups involving bedsheets. I was out on the track running and gunning to look for the angle that would give me a shot setting me apart from the rest of the mass of photographers out there. This crash occurred early in the race, at about lap 7 I believe. I was terribly blocked from seeing what was going on in regards to the driver and that's not to mention the fact that I was far too far away. I guess it just goes to show that sometimes the real photo isn't what's right in front of you. I was intrigued by Purdue Pete taking a knee for one of his downed students.

(Nikon D3, 200ISO, Nikon 70-300F4.5-5.6VRII@300mm, 1/250th@F5.6)

It was a lot of fun being out on the track, which to someones lack of better judgment let me dangerously close too. Don't underestimate the term dangerously close either, I definitely ran across the track during part of the race at an opening so I could get into the middle. I didn't use the bridge to cross, I was foot to pavement on the actual track. Obviously the people putting on this event weren't given the proper information allowing me to be on the property, as frogger is my game of choice...

All of the drivers were in search of one thing though, and that was the trophy for the Win. It turns out that Justin Penix was the Pole sitter that day as well, who for a while as I recall was bumped back a few spots. In the end he pulled through though, and good for him. I wanted to do something a little different with the shot of the winner, and that's where the Overcast crappy day came into play as crappy cloudy days can make much more epic photos of triumphant people whom you want to represent very dramatially.

(Nikon D700, 200ISO, Nikon 18-35mmF3.5-4.5@18mm, 1/400th@F10, Nikon SB-900 set to iTTL +1EV zoomed to 200mm attached to the camera via SC-28 Off camera cable aimed at Justin using my left hand at arms length)

So I couldn't go the whole day without doing something with my Strobe. I was happy with the shot, so what? I did play with a lot of black and white though, and I encourage you to check out the rest of the shots here. I enjoyed the day, and the rain held out for the race, which was amazing. Everyone was sure we were going to get soaked, including me. Glad we didn't as I've found that water and cameras don't always get along.

I feel as though the day was a success on many accounts. I saw some very dear friends, I shot some photos that I like from the race (I shot lots lots more that I didn't like though too), I also ran into a reader of the blog whom I'd never met before. One of the shooters at the track is a reader, and I'd like to say thanks again to everyone that does suffer through my horrible grammatical and spelling travesties for the sake of looking at the pictures. It does mean a lot that you are here, and It was incredibly awesome, and humbling to find out that there are people out there whom I don't know that read this. So thanks again, and without a doubt; More Soon.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Battle Royale...

Recently while attending the concert of my friend KJ Testin, I was offered a very unique opportunity. Well, egged onto is more of an appropriate term rather than offered, but either way I did accept. I digress though, we were at a KJ Testin concert, and my good friend Brad was completely amped about his purchase of a Nikon D700. I don't blame him, it's an amazing camera that is capable of taking amazing photos. Brad you see, recently traded in ALL of his Sony Alpha equipment in order to purchase this D700. I kept telling brad that there was nothing wrong with his Sony A700, but he was convinced that after years of watching me shoot with Nikon there was a difference. I continued to tell him what I say,and what you'll hear a lot of pro's say. "The camera is just a tool." I was challenged to prove it.

(Photo by Bradley Clampitt. D700, 2500ISO, Sigma 70-200F2.8@70mm, 1/160th@F2.8)

Brad isn't your average shooter by any stretch. While he claims that he never inspires to be a professional, he constantly takes time to work on getting better at taking photos on his own time. I can't tell you the number of times that he's called me at 3AM to tell me about a shot he wanted to take while out on the canal while he was there taking it. He's got a good eye, and while not a professional he is definitely not average.

The company that Brad works for happens to own a Nikon D2Xs which of course he had in his car at the time. (It's like he planned this or something? Sheesh!) Again, I digress. So Brad goes out to his car and to my dismay provides the Nikon D2Xs. A little history on the Nikon D2X series of camera is that at 100ISO is the greatest camera you will EVER use. Above 400iso the camera looks like you've printed your images directly on sandpaper. Detail loss is rampant in every occasion but one, and that's the occasion of a perfect exposure; which as a professional I was expected to hit.

(Nikon D2Xs, 1250ISO, Sigma 70-200F2.8@200mm, 1/125@F2.8)

The challenge here wasn't to prove who was the better photographer. Not by any stretch. The challenge here was to prove that a camera didn't matter, it was the know how of the user that mattered. The challenge was to prove that I could provide photos just as good in terms of quality with the Nikon D2Xs, as with his much newer and more advanced D700; and that's what I did.

(Photo by Bradley Clampitt. Nikon D700, 2500ISO, Sigma 70-200mmF2.8@105mm, 1/30th@F2.8)

The rules were simple. We were to shoot the first two sets of the concert and pick 5 files out of our take to swap with the other person. Brad took 1,181 Photos and for some reason my itchy trigger finger decided that 298 total shots was the right number. (Potentially limited by the single 8gb card that I had, but that's another story). Neither of us were allowed to crop the images at all because yes the primary objective was to prove that the camera didn't matter, not how well one or the other can crop an image to be more interesting. I guess in that aspect there was a little bit of Photographic skill in competition here, but the big thing was image quality. The images would then have all of the EXIF data stripped from them, and be sent to several civilian judges to see if anyone could tell the difference. One judge was a Digital Imaging and Retouching expert, another judge was a Professional Photographer here in town, and the final was a civilian who just liked looking at photos. They were asked if they could tell which shots were shot with which camera, and to pick 7 of the 10 that they liked the best.

(Nikon D2Xs, 1250ISO, Nikon AF-S 50mmF1.4G, 1/125@F2)

In the end, as you can tell by the photos in this blog, the Nikon D2Xs camera handled itself admirably. Scott at Roberts Distributors in downtown Indianapolis describes the D2x as the most undervalued camera on the market today, and I totally agree. It also shows that if you know what you're doing a camera is just a tool; like a hammer. It's great that the technology makes it easier to take photos, but in the end its the person behind it. If you've got a Digital Rebel, or a D70, D80 or lots of other cameras you've already got a camera that handles noise better than the D2 series of cameras did so go out and shoot. That's where you'll get better. Not by owning better equipment. None of the judges could tell which camera shot what. There may have been a bit of a style difference that was recognizable, but that's another story.

With that said, I also feel as though there is nothing wrong with owning a really nice hammer. After the dust settled on our little Battle Royale, Brad thanked me as he had seen that technology is helpful, but not the end all be all in the world of photography. The shots that I took were very useable, at a much lower ISO than he had even attempted to shoot at. I could also stop sweating at that point as I had no idea if I would have been able to pull off useable photos with that camera even though I'd done it hundreds of times when I owned one. In retrospect this was probably a horrbile idea, but we'll just say that a dinner Won is sweeter than a dinner cooked, or bought yourself. I've said the camera doesn't matter and I stand by that but I'll tell you what: it definitely helps sometimes. More Soon.

(Nikon D2Xs, 1250ISO, Sigma 70-200F2.8@70mm, 1/125@F2.8)

Saturday, April 17, 2010

The Cure...

I've had this itch to blog all week, and yet I just haven't found the time. Been on the road a lot this week (almost 500 miles in the car), so I've had plenty of time to think about what I should blog about. Nothing really stands out more than an event that I shot this morning though; "Race for the Cure".

(Canon EOS1D Mark II, 50ISO, Canon 70-200MMF2.8LIS@145mm, 1/8th@F32)

Yea I shot some engagement photos, I did the technology test last week by shooting a Nikon D2Xs at a concert vs a much newer more advanced D700 as well, and while those are both very worthy blog topics this one seems more relevant as the thoughts and memories are fresh in my mind. I'd say it was a tough thing to make it to as I was up late with a very lovely lady last night out on the town, but that I'm sure is nothing in comparison to what a lot of these women (and a few men) have gone through marching in this event.

(Canon EOS5D Mark II, 100ISO, Canon 16-35mmF2.8L@16mm, 1/100th@F10)

That was the scene at the IUPUI campus and Military park this morning at about quarter to 8 in the morning. I know some people that read this probably didn't realize there as an 8AM that goes along with the 8PM, but trust me it does exist. Not only does it exist, but most of the people in the above photo were there much before then, preparing for their walk/run/race.

(Canon EOS5D Mark II, Canon 16-35mmF2.8L@16mm. 1/125th@F11)

It really was quite a sight seeing all the people running and walking for the cause. Very inspiring. There were a few Roller Derby ladies in the run/walk as well, however I didn't run into them. I will see them in af ew hours though as today is the final bout for the 2009-2010 home season. I'm charging batteries and prepping gear pretty much at the same time that I type this. Double header, it's a big day. Going to be zonked out tired at the end of it too, but as always I've got some neat stuff coming up for future blog material so stay tuned. More Soon.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Water Droplets....

A few weeks ago I gave a presentation to the PhotoVenture Camera Club here in Indianapolis on Macro Photography. I unfortunately wasn't as prepared for that presentation as I'd have liked to have been because I hadn't shot water droplets and I wanted to show them something that I know a lot of people have interest in (other than bugs, flowers and diamonds of course). So at the end of my presentation I made sure to specifically promise an in depth tutorial about shooting water droplets. Here we go...

List of materials needed is as follows:
-Colored background (important)
-At least 1 strobe that can be fired either via wireless flash, pocket wizard, or off camera cable
-Water (duh)
-Plastic Baggie
-Trash can
-Paper towels
-Thumb Tack
-Cable release
-Fishbowl, large snack bowl, Flower Vase, Basically a glass or plastic transparent vessel to put water into

The thing to remember is that you may not get this on the first try, but once you get the idea you'll get some really cool stuff. You'll want to set your camera to Manual Focus and set it to where you think the water drops will land. (AIm for the middle of whatever you are using to drop them into). Keep in mind that you aren't going to have much depth of field to work with if you are using a macro lens and are getting close up. So you may not get sharp shots every time, but keep at it as it'll take a few drops. I used Ziplock bags and a regular thumbtack to make the hole to start the drips, because that's what I had on hand and because the plastic in those bags is usually pretty good meaning that the hole wasn't going to tear and create a waterfall on me.

The REAL key here is the light. You don't actually light the water droplets, you light the background. Water is transparent, and has very similar qualities to glass in some aspects. The easiest way to light glass is to light around it. This is why you want colored backgrounds. I took things one step further, buy providing two colored backgrounds. In my case it was Red and Blue, which gave the overall feel of the water a red one, but gave the highlights of the water a blue hue.

I used a cable release as to avoid touching the camera while firing the shutter. Like I said, you have kind of a slim depth of field while doing this, so any bit of camera movement you can avoid would be good. Also if I did it again I'd find a much larger vessel to put the water into, the smaller vase worked alright, but I'd rather shoot through as little glass as possible for something like this. Every layer of glass between you and your subject is a texture, blur, or other that can get in the way of the sharpness of your image.

(Photo By Brad Clampitt on his iPhone to illustrate the lighting of the background)

It doesn't look like much (and the video was towards the end when I was getting faster while looking for drop on drop action) but believe it or not that setup can yield results....

The final image is here:

(Nikon D3, 320ISO, Nikon 105mmF2.8VR Macro, 1/125th@F25. Nikon SB-900 Speedlight zoomed to 135mm fired into the red binder sleeve behind the vase set to 1/4th power Fired by Pocket Wizard. Camera fired by MC-36 Digital Remote Release. Side note: the above photo shows two speedlights. Only one was firing, the other was setup in case I wanted another one, which I didn't)

I'll have to say that I was pleased with the result, yet at the same time there are things I'd have done differently, which is mostly getting a larger tank. Keep in mind that it takes some time to get the timing down, and you wont get this on your first try. I took 576 shots yesterday afternoon while doing this, and there are a lot where the drops didn't land where the camera was focused, or where i was just a little too slow, or fast to catch it. To avoid this problem you can buy or make an audio trigger for your camera. I however just decided to wing it, and burn a few shots. I learned a lot, and I hope anyone that reads this learns a few things too. Coming up I've got a few interesting entries. One details the use of a Nikon D2x while shooting a concert along side a Much newer and more advanced D700. Others include the engagement of some friends as seen below, so definitely check back because as always: More Soon.

(Nikon D3, 200ISO, Nikon 18-35mmF3.5-4.5@24mm, 1/160@F22. Single Nikon SB-900 Speedlight set to TTL +3 held on the end of a light stand by Joseph Lee fired by an on camera SB-900 set to master mode.)

Monday, April 5, 2010

For the Dawgs...

Right now in Indiana there is only one thing on anybody's mind. The Final 4. Right now Butler is the smallest school in Final 4 history to make it to the final game. That my friends; is EPIC. I'm sure I know quite a few people that are at the games too. Not just shooting, but people that are actually there to watch the basketball. Unfortunately as I've mentioned in the past, I'm not the shooter that gets sent to a sporting event like this. Not because I wouldn't know how to shoot it but I just haven't been in that particular game enough to be the one the newspaper sends. Everybody else? They've got their go to shooters already too, which leaves me to do things like this:

I shot that for one of the last "Rollin with Gunner" Video's that we did for Bob Rohrman. Gunner and I had a bet that a lot of the Butler Student population didn't know their own fight song. What we found was that we were right, and that they didn't know it. Unfortunately when we tried again the following week while asking who was in the final four we were sent packing. Everybody knew that one, although even that week we had someone respond with. "heck no" when asked if they knew the fight song.

That's a shot from one of my first blogs last year. It was during the 2009 Indiana All Star basketball games which are coming up again in June. I'll be there for those, and I enjoy it every time. I've mentioned a few times that I used to shoot sports at Purdue. I definitely miss it, but I don't miss having to manage a restaurant on the side to get by. I do tend to get plenty of sports time shooting Roller Derby though, which I certainly enjoy. I think the big difference is that the roller derby will let me run around and flail wildly as if I was chasing cars. Something that the people at Wolf Park were afraid I'd do if I ran around with the Wolves while I was there previously. Despite the fact that the wolves are actually socialized, there are very specific behaviors you need to avoid when around these wolves. An example of that would have been if I had been allowed to flail wildly running around the enclosure. Hense why I'm not allowed to go places sometimes. The kid in me comes out, and the next thing you know I'm wearing my pants like a cape.

That guy there seems pretty peaceful, and really is unless you run around like you're prey. Prey of course being a camera guy running around flailing or the like, which never would have been allowed to happen. I highly recommend you check the place out though, as I said in my previous post. They have a great staff, and are very knowlegeable about the wolves. Plus if you're interested in Nature Photography, they have an on staff wolf photographer that you can get shooting instruction from. Seriously. Check it out. Especially check it out if you're interested in one of the p hoto classes. Very Cool.

I'm sure at least one person noticed it's been a while since my last post. Been wicked busy. Gave a presentation on macro Photography last week that went over pretty well. Had people asking questions for two and a half hours afterward, I was incredibly humbled as to how people appreciated my work and felt like they could ask me questions. Thanks again to everyone who showed up. This Thursday I'm giving a presentation on shooting Sports, specifically Roller Derby for another group. They are excited and so am I. Also though I've got some neat things in mind for the photo below, but to make it interesting I'd like to invite people to leave some comments as to what they think should be done there. I'm also working on a great post about shooting water droplets so stay tuned because as always; More Soon.