Utah Holi Festival 2011

Made another trip to the Holi Festival at the Krisha Temple in Spanish Fork, Utah.

There wasn’t a big organized group of photographers, but there were of course plenty there anyway.

This time I also brought along the family. My five year old was especially excited to go. He had a great time, especially when he realized he could throw the colors at anyone he wanted, and that we encouraged it all the more when the person didn’t have any color on them yet (below left) ;)

Overall there were quite a few more families then last year which was awesome to see. It is a great family event. I’d love to see them do a throw dedicated to families to encourage more to come out, where they wouldn’t get run over by all the college guys as much.

Full Holi Festival gallery here

This year was quite a bit colder then last year. It was overcast the whole time. It had rained and snowed the day and night before, and the normally grassy hill turned into a lot of mud. Which of course people took advantage of and it was soon a mud slide that people would go sliding down.

Sometimes people would get colors put on them, and sometimes they’d do it themselves

A few more faves. The first being my son, which of couse is my most favorite of all :)

Pretty sure this is the back of Sulley from Monsters Inc

It was an awesome event, and can’t wait to do it again next year!

Full Holi Festival gallery here

Which SLR should I get?

I probably get this question more then any other from friends, acquaintances or random people who see me with a “big” camera. I thought I’d put my current response into a blog post. I say “current” because naturally it is open to change.

A common response to the “Which SLR/Camera should I get” question is to say “which car should I get?” Naturally there are a lot of things that can influence what car you would get (what you want to do with it, size of family, etc), and that is the same thing for a camera.  You can’t just say “Lamborghini” or “Hummer” without some background on what they want to get out of it, and I can’t say “Canon 5d II” or “Nikon d700″ without similar background.

The above being said, my normal answer to the SLR specific question is…. don’t get one.

Yup, 9 times out of 10 I don’t think it’s what they really want. When I start asking questions or explaining what SLR ownership entails, they usually agree.

Questions I ask

  • Why do you want an SLR? Usually the answer to this is that the person is sick of the not so great photos they get from their current point and shoot. Occasionally it’s response time.
  • How much are you wanting to spend? Now and in the long run? I explain that I am well over $5,000 into my camera and lenses. Are they willing to come even close to that to get all the tools they might want?
  • What type of photography are you wanting to do? If they want to be all over the map (portrait, landscape, etc) I explain that those are all different lenses. This adds cost (above) and other issues (below) for SLR ownership.
  • and more questions I am likely forgetting now, or custom to the person.

Explaining what SLR ownership entails

Say what? You make it sound like it’s difficult to own an SLR.  Well, it sorta is.

Size/Bulk

Not mine. Just an example of lots of stuff. By fensterbme

People are wanting to move from their point and shoot, that slipped into a pocket or purse, to a fairly bulky piece of equipment. This either needs to hang from a neck strap around the neck or shoulder or be packed in its own bag if you are bringing additional lenses.

Yes, additional lenses.  Want a big zoom? That’s another lens. Want a wide angle? That’s another lens. Want a macro? That’s another lens.  Can you get a single lens that will do alot of the above? Sure. Will it be a good lens? From a convenience standpoint, yes. From a quality standpoint, no.  But maybe a low quality, but convenient lens is good enough for you.  That’s for you to decide.

Most people I see with SLRs still have the kit lens that it came with.  I really need to ask these people what it is they are getting out of SLR ownership if that’s as far as they are going to go with it. There may be some nuance that I am missing. I guess it could just be the “real camera” experience that people like.  Who knows.

One of the big events I see lots of people out with cameras to, is the balloon festival during the 4th of July holiday in Provo.  This is the classic multiple lens scenario.  When you are walking amongst the balloons, you really need a wide angle to take it all in.  These are multiple stories tall subjects, that are directly above you. To get far enough away from them to see a whole balloon at once with a zoom, you would need to be a block away.

Then they launch, and are way up in the air. The wide angle you were using, now makes it so the balloons look like regular helium balloons.

You have to carry all those lenses around. Doesn’t that sound fun on an outing where you are already carrying chairs, blankets, kids, bags of stuff for kids, etc.

If when you are heading out to an event and you look at that big camera bag and think “man, I don’t want to lug that along this time” so you leave it, then your investment isn’t paying off.

Public display of expensive stuff.

SLR’s and their associated lenses, are known to not be cheap. When I go to Disneyland with my SLR I’m always worried about that.  If I just took out my big camera/lens to take a nice photo, and then am about to go on splash mountain, I can’t really take the camera with me to get wet. So I have to try to sneak it back into a bag so others don’t see, and then leave it there while I go on the ride.  So far so good, but it freaks me out every time.

Additional Costs

By AMagill

Remember those various lenses I mentioned up above? Yeah… those cost money.  If you are wanting GOOD lenses (which is why you say wou wanted to move to an SLR… right?) then you will pay for it.  A GOOD zoom lens will cost a minimum of $500, and up to $1,500 for really good. Macro? $400. Wide angle? $400.

Oh you want a better flash then is on the camera? $300-500.

Wait, you want to take good night shots and macro shots? Get a tripod.  Oh by the way, those $20 walmart tripods aren’t all that great. You’ll want a nice one.  A decent tripod is $200 at the low end, and then the thing you attach your camera to (the head) is now a separate component (just like SLRs). The head starts at $60.

Getting the picture yet? There is a lot that CAN go into this hobby. Granted many people won’t get this far.  But this is what you are opening the door too.  I’m just saying make sure you are ready for it.

So what do I suggest instead?

Usually I suggest the super zoom class. Most times people don’t even know that this class exists, but I often find it fits what they are actually looking for.

The super zooms go from wide angle to a bigger zoom then you will likely ever buy for your SLR.  They are image stabilized for the entire zoom length.  When buying separate lenses, you are usually paying an extra few hundred PER LENS for image stabilization.

Their size is right in between the point and shoot they are coming from, and the SLR they are wanting to move to.  It’s small enough to fit in a bigger purse or cargo pocket. But, that includes the equivalent of the macro all the way to the mega zoom lens. All in one package.

Oh, and the super zooms are in the $400 range, with no need to buy additional stuff.

Is the quality of those photos going to be that of an SLR? Nope. But how many people are taking pics to turn into poster size prints. 99% of your photos are going to stay on your computer or get uploaded to facebook at a tiny fraction of their original size anyway.  That being said, one of my most popular temple photos is from a super zoom from from 5 years ago (2005). The quality holds up well to many of my SLR photos of today. Think of how far they have come since then.

The super zooms look like smaller SLRs, so the way you hold them is different and will lead to better pictures that are being taken with a camera stabilized by your whole hand, not just a few fingers lightly holding a point and shoot.

They also usually have a number of controls you see on an SLR. You can use Shutter-speed priority, Aperture priority and Manual settings.  Granted these might be a touch more clunky then on an SLR. But you do get to start playing with more advance settings. If you understand what those even do.

I am currently in the market for a good super zoom camera. The one I am eying is the Canon sx30 is (pictured above). I would absolutely use a camera like this in many situations such as Disneyland and the balloon fest. I’m still going to get great photos out of it. I get much more flexibility from wide to zoom without carrying around extra stuff. I still get HD video. etc etc.  Would I use it for photos I plan on using in large prints or to sell? Nope. That’s when I would pull out all my SLR gear.  But I’m guessing most of the people asking my opinion aren’t shooting for those reasons.

Great, but I still want an SLR. Which one should I get?

If after all that you still want an SLR here’s what I have to offer you.

Brand

Canon vs Nikon. I am a Canon guy. I don’t have a good reason why. When I first started into the hobby I had heard more about Canon stuff so I went that way. I haven’t even held a Nikon (or any other brand) for longer then 2 minutes. I’m sure they are great cameras. Honestly it seems I see more Nikon’s out there then I do Canons.

One thing that could influence your decision is what do friends and family have? My brother and now my aunt have Canon stuff and it really is nice to be able to borrow an extra flash or lens that I don’t have.  If we were on different platforms, we couldn’t do that.

Which level of body should I get?

Speaking specifically of Canon and Nikon, they kind of have 3-4 levels of SLR you can get. Entry level, prosumer (pro consumer), semi-pro, pro.  The breakdowns are somewhere around $500, $800,  $1500, $3000. Those are total ballpark prices.

The thing about bodies are they are temporary. Megapixels will continue to rise, movies will get better, frames per second will get better, etc. Every few years you will want a new body with those new specs.  But for the most part, lenses stick around for MUCH longer.

The top of the line zoom lens I got will last until my kids are teenagers. If I treat them well that is. Lenses will have the most impact on the quality of your photos.

So that is a long way of saying, get the cheapest SLR you can that has the features you want (movies, controls, etc). Put the rest of your budget into better and better lenses.

I would put my top of the line lens, on a bottom of the line SLR body from 2 years ago, against a todays top of the line body, with a cheap lens any day and come out with the better picture.  Lenses are that important.  That being said, if you are frustrated with your body so much that you don’t want to use it, then it’s no good to you. So find that happy place in the middle.  Get your lenses decked out, then go back and upgrade your body.

Conclusion

Well that was long winded wasn’t it. Did that even help?

The punchline is this.  Make sure you are ready to get into the world of the SLR. There can be a lot more involved in it then you might think.  If you think the SLR body and kit lens is enough for you, I’d love to hear why.  What is it you get out of that combo?

Give the super zoom class a fair shake.  I think there is a lot of power in that class. Again, I will be getting one in the not too distant future. I plan to use it even when I have bags of other higher quality gear. Convenience can trump quality in many situations.  Will I shoot a wedding with it? Nope. Will it be the primary camera on vacations? Good chance.

Best of luck in your decision. I hope you find a good fit for your personal style. In the end, make sure you get a camera that you WANT to pick up.  The best camera is the one you have with you. If you won’t take it because it’s too bulky (body plus multiple lenses) or you won’t take it because in your mind it doesn’t take good enough pics (point and shoot), then you have the wrong camera.  Make sure taking pictures stay fun for the long run.  I guarantee you’ll have fun with the SLR for the first month or two. But it gets big and heavy pretty quick.

I am so glad that I have my SLR and all my associated gear.  I have gotten some great stuff out of it.  But I have put the time and money into the hobby to make it worth my while. Are you ready to do that?  If so, great. Bring it on.  If not, hopefully the above has opened your eyes to other options.

Happy picture taking… whatever you get :)

Update Aug 2014

I did get the sx30is I mentioned in this ancient article. I still have it and use it regularly today. Yes, I have gone on vacations only taking the sx30is. Yes, as a fairly serious hobby photographer that shoots pictures meant to be on posters size I am pleased with this tool in my bag in the right situations.  This is what I take for the kids school programs and sometimes to sporting events. Do I still bring all my gear for sporting stuff to get “the shot” you bet. But that is why I put way more than the $5000 mentioned above into my “hobby”. But that is usually only a game or two per sport/season, then its back to the trusty, and light, sx30is.

I still get asked my opinion, and I keep pointing people to this article. Thus far I haven’t received any negative feedback from anyone who has gone down this path.

Halloween 2010 Trick or Treater Photos

Last year around Halloween I got this idea of setting up my studio lights and take photos of trick or treaters as they came by. So for the past year I have been getting the parts that I needed to make it happen. Technical details down below for those that care.

All in all, it was a great success, with 294 photos of 81 trick or treaters. It almost didn’t happen due to the rain, as I was shooting in my garage and blowing rain and camera gear don’t mix all that well. But luckily the rain died down around 6:30 and I was able to open shop.

The response from people was great. Some weren’t sure what was going on, some asked how much I was charging (it was free, guess I need a sign). One mom walked away saying “that’s the best idea I have ever heard of.” I’ll take that as a complement.

A few photos from the night are here in the post, but you can see the rest in the full gallery. Is this my best work? Nope. The floor got covered with dirt and grass on occasion, sometimes the garage snuck into a shot here or there (went back and tried to fix some of that), people would blink or be looking at the monitor for some shots.  But you get what you pay for. Normally I would say a photographer should only publish their best shots, but this will be a rare exception. So take all the bumps and bruises in the photos with a grain (or bucket) of salt :)

All Ages

Baby, Toddler, Teen, Adult

Technical Details

Here’s a photo of the setup. Click through to see notes on the image.

Trick or Treater photos setup

Key Lights – Two alien bees 800 hanging from superclamps that are clamped onto an open garage door. I wanted the lights up off the ground since I knew I would have lots of kids walking around that wouldn’t be watching for stands.

Background Lights – Two speedlights (430 ex and 580 ex II) pointed at the the white seamless.

Light Triggers – All lights triggered by a Radio Poppers JrX Trigger and JrX Studio Receivers (4) with some RP Cubes on the speedlights.

Whiteness – 9 foot white seamless. Two Thrifty White Tileboards from Home Depot, via the Zack Arias tutorial.

Monitor – Old Dell 19″ LCD setup as a second screen pointed at the trick or treaters so they (and parents) could see the shots. This was naturally a big hit to see things on the fly.

Uploading – I had my camera tethered to a laptop with a 15 foot USB cable to give me a little freedom of movement. The laptop is running Lightroom 3.2 grabbing the pics via the camera tether option.  I had a preset applied on import and then it went into a smart gallery that was setup to upload to my SmugMug account via the new publish service in Lightroom 3. Whenever there was a break in the trick or treaters I would go over and tell it to upload any new photos. I think the longest photos set on my compute without being uploaded was 10-15 minutes.

Cards – I ordered some business cards with a URL to where the photos could be found.

New lens – First time I got to give my new 24-105 L lens a work out. It did awesome… of course :)

What would I do different if I did it again

  • I would get cards that don’t have the year on them. The order was for 200 cards that I am guessing I used 50 of. But with the brkr.co/halloween2010 URL on it, they are kind of dated. I would do brkr.co/halloweenpics (or something) then I could carry cards over to the next year. I could just change what the shorturl was pointing to each year.
  • I would love to get a wireless system so get the photos off the camera without the wire tether. But I’m guessing that would get spendy fast.
  • Naturally more lights would be great.
  • I may change over to a halloween/fall scene instead of the plain white background. Will have to ask some parents about what they would prefer.
  • Would like to find a way for the upload to happen automatically.

All in all, I had a great time interacting with everyone. Lots of people had lot of fun getting their shots taken. Parents of course love it, getting some great photos of their kids. I will likely do it again next year. Just need to find the happy place between having fun with my own boys and getting all this setup and taking the pics.

New Design, BIGger pictures

I have been wanting to update the look of my blog forever, but just never got around to it. After posting pictures of the holi festival I got lots of great comments on the photos, but thought they could have been shown of so much better.

I have been a long time fan of the big picture blog over at boston.com. They post a few times a week on various interesting subjects. But the best part are the… BIG PICTURES.  They display their photos at a glorious 990 pixels wide. So different from most other blogs.  You really get to dig into the detail of the amazing photos.  So I decided to take my cue from them and change my layout to show bigger pictures.

I moved all the stuff that was in the side column down to the very bottom as that wasn’t what you are here for anyway. I took that extra space and added a little more and am now proudly showing my photos off at 900px wide.  Sure it’s not the full 990 that Big Picture does, but it’s still pretty dang big and gives me a little room to have some fun with the design.

The web designer (and geek) in me had fun using some fun new features that the good browsers are starting to support.  I say good, because if you are looking at the site in Internet Explorer you are missing out on a few of the niceties. I won’t get on my soapbox about why IE sucks at this time, but do us all a favor and stop using it… m’kay?

I know I don’t post that often, and there are many better photographers out there (see my blogroll at the bottom of the screen for several)… but for the little I do post, I hope you enjoy the new format of seeing the bigger photos.

I have updated the holi festival post to use the larger photos, and may go back to others from the past to update them as well.  The photos in this post are selections from the past in their new bigger format.

To more easily navigate the photos you can press your J and K keys to go down and up respectively, jumping to the next or previous photo.  Kind of weird keys to use, but that is what a number of sites are already using (Google Reader, Big Picture) so thought I would follow suit.

I’m sure I have the occasional bug to fix here and there, but hopefully I’ll get to them… sometime this year. :)

Holi Festival 2010

For the last two years I have wanted to go to the Holi Festival at the Krisha Temple in Spanish Fork. Each year something came up.  This year I wanted to go extra bad after seeing all the pictures from the past years.

A photographer friend, Scott Jarvie, has been shooting the Holi Festival for the last few years.  This year he had the crazy idea (for most mortal men, not for him) to organize a dozen photographers to shoot the festivities.  I quickly volunteered.  In the end we had around 10,000 photos from the 12 photogs.  As of this writing they are still being uploaded (that’s about 100gig worth folks) but they can be seen here.

The baby powder like colored powder is naturally an enemy to expensive camera equipment.  I spent some time the night before to seal up my camera and lens.  The short version is that it was some gallon ziploc bags and some tape.  It worked perfectly.

The day of was very long.  I showed up around 9 and left about 5:30. Which paled compared to Scott and Pete Stott that were there longer then I was. I was sore and tired by the end of the day, but wow it was fun.

Seriously. Fun.

So many amazing photo ops. So many people willing (and excited) to have their pictures taken. It really helped me to step out of my normal comfort zone and get into peoples faces.

I’m really worried about next year though.  I’m not sure if I will want to participate or take photos.  It looked like a lot of fun. :)

I know, shut up already and get to the pictures.

Full Holi Festival gallery here.

Special thanks to Scott for being his normal over ambitious self and organizing the outing.  I would have tried to go out anyway, but it was more fun to hang with other photogs and be a part of something bigger.

Even more special thanks to my family who puts up with my regular photo outings. I was out at a conference for a full week just a week and a half ago. Photocamp Utah last Saturday. Now this. Thanks for putting up with me guys!

Rumbo Rumba

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One of my carpool buddies, David Lindes, bumped into this here photo blog I believe as a result of my Happy Dallintines Day post. He has a new band called Rumbo Rumba (on facebook) that plays Latin alternative music. He asked if I would come to one of their practice sessions to get some documentary type shots for their website. I figured I could use the experience so I said yes.

Saturday I went up to their studio to see what I could do. In talking to David before hand he said it was a small room with dim lighting. So just I’m case I brought my studio lights. I was glad I did as they helped immensely.  It was still quite difficult as the band was scattered around the room all facing eachother.  Naturally any place I put the lights would be close to some and far away from others.  This made the lighting quite difficult.  I basically had to adjust the lights depending on who I was shooting.

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More experienced photogs may have been able to do it all with one setting, but I guess I’m not that photog quite yet.  Luckily I had picked up some Radio Popper JrX remote triggers which allowed me to adjust the strobes on the fly.  This made it extremely easy to adjust the power of my two lights as I went around the room and framed different situations.

After the studio we moved out to an auditorium of sorts to do some casual shots on a couch that they had.  They had a great wood floor that added a lot to the shots.

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Finally we went out to beside their building to get some outside shots.  Again, wanting it kind of casual.

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All in all I enjoyed the challenge.  Hopefully the band gets some stuff out of it that they like.  David is a designer himself, so he will be editing the photos with his own chosen style.  I edited these for my own benefit to see what I could do with them.

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Any feedback is welcome as I am always wanting to improve.

View the full set on flickr.

Happy Dallintines Day

Story behind this down lower…

I started with the following picture:

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Did some work in Lightroom:

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Then into Photoshop for the text (hopefully I can do this all in Lightroom 3 when it comes out):

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Final Product

So the computer editing is all well and good, but at this point Dallin just looks like he’s shaking his fist in the air.  The funnest part of this project is when you add the lollipop:

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Full Story

Full disclosure that I blatantly stole this valentines day card idea from Suzanne over at Lookie Loo Photography.  I am a huge fan of her work and if I were to have someone else take pics of my family, she would be one of the two I would go to.

So what is Dallintines day?  Last year when my son Dallin could first really register the word “valentines” he naturally thought it was Dallintines because hey… how many words have an “allin” sound in them? So when I started thinking about recreating this idea in making a card for him to hand out, I thought it would be fun to include that on the card.

Dallin doesn’t normally like to sit/stand still for my parentally enforced photo shoots.  Luckily he was kind of interested in this one after seeing Suzanne’s examples and so cooperated with me. He even did the arm on the hip like Suzanne’s daughter did without my prompting.  Here are a few more of the winning shots from the evening.  We got a few of each of them printed out to mix it up a little.

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Thanks to Suzanne (who hopefully isn’t mad I “borrowed” her idea) for the inspiration. This was the most fun I’ve had taking pics with Dallin in a while.

Gritty Details

I shot this in my basement with my two AlienBees B800 studio lights, two yards of fabric from the fabric store and my normal camera gear.  The fabric is actually clamped on to a boxspring I have standing up against the wall… nothing too fancy.

I got the studio lights after the first studio lighting photowalk back in 2008. So far all I’ve used them for is pics of family (and the occasional macro).  I really need to break out of my comfort zone and use them more often so I can get good enough to charge a few bucks and get the cost back.  But until then, I sure have lots of great pics of my boys and their cousins :)

Macro Pokey Things

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Somehow on Saturday I got to looking at my flickr favorites list.  One shot stood out to me that I had favorited forever ago with a desire to recreate one day.  It was a close up of some toothpicks that had an almost flower like feel to them.

It had been a while since broke out my gear and way longer since I had done any macro work.  So I got to playing with some toothpicks as well as one of those pin board toys that has hundreds of pins

Both of the subjects presented unique challenges.  It took quite a while to get the toothpicks lined up correctly to be able to get them to rotate and get the feel that I wanted.  I had to keep sticking in additional toothpicks into gaps, some would fall out when they wouldn’t have pressure on them (think jenga), shadows had to be correctly positioned to give separation, etc etc.

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The pin board was very reflective so there was a lot of moving around of lights to get a good reflection and shadow relationship, changing the intensity of the lights (used two, one left, one right), making sure all the pins were down, getting them to be lined up correctly with the camera (with such a strong pattern its easy to tell when they aren’t right), etc .

The results are by no means gallery material, but they were a fun first stab at macro in the studio.  I’m glad I favorited that image so many years ago and finally got around to trying to recreate it.  There are many more that I am anxious to try in the future.  While I think it’s good to be your own photographer and not copy others, it doesn’t hurt to try and recreate things every now and then for education sake :)

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Daniel at Discovery Park

Daniel

Canon 40D, EFS 28-135 IS, 1/30, f/5, 65mm, ISO 800

If I posted all the pictures I take of my kids, the blog would be over run with them.  But for some reason this one just grabbed me when I started editing it.

This was taken in a small cubby hole at the Discovery Park in Pleasant Grove, UT.  It was a bit overcast and this was under the main structure so it was quite dark. The 800 ISO gives the photo a great grain but Daniel’s face still looks like a porcelain doll as my wife says.

Somewhere I learned how to use gradient tool to add the nice dark edges which I really think adds to it, and draws the attention in.

I guess I shouldn’t be so afraid to post the pictures of family that I take.  That is a huge part of my photography right now and those photos are definitely worth being shared as well.

Oquirrh Mountain Temple

Oquirrh Mountain Temple

Canon 40D, Sigma 10-20mm 1:4-5.6 EX DC HSM, 1/250, f/11, 16 mm, ISO 100

So I got a request the other day through my LDS Temple Photography site asking if I had any plans to add Oquirrh Mountain Temple to my list of photos.  I had been meaning to get up there forever to take some pics but just never had.  But it so happens that my work was moving to a mile away or so, and so I took the opportunity to run over for a quick photo shoot with the temple.

I got several great shots, and since I have had so little activity here lately maybe I’ll post a few of them.  I went in the morning and then made a return trip that evening to get some dusk/night shots.

This is also my first shot with my new wide angle lens.  I definitely wouldn’t have gotten the shots I wanted without it.  It’s a great addition to my bag.