Craig Allen Photography

Craig Allen is a photographer creating unique images and spreading messages of photology to the masses.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Giottos Rocket Air Blower Review

Giottos Rocket Air Blower ReviewThe kids thought the Giottos Rocket Air Blower was a toy for them – I suggest you get at least two if you have children around. The Giottos Rocket Air Blower is an inexpensive and indispensable product that should be in every photographer’s kit.

Sensor dust is a big problem in the current crop of D-SLRs – especially showing up in macro photography, landscape photography and other photography using a tiny aperture opening or incorporating smooth, light colors such as a blue sky. The Giottos Rocket Air Blower is a key part of my anti-sensor-dust arsenal – and always my first step in cleaning both sensors and lenses.

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posted by admin at 9:16 am  

Friday, August 14, 2009

New White Seamless Background & Photoshop Actions

I just setup a white seamless background in my home studio based off of Zack Arias’ White Seamless Tutorial series. In his series he explains everything from the equipment required to invaluable techniques.

by Craig Allen Photography © All rights reserved

After shooting, I load the photos into Lightroom 2 and make quick adjustments for white balance, brightness, fixing skew, etc and then I export the keepers to Photoshop for editing.

I am working on a new action for Photoshop to make light work out of editing images shot on white seamless.  I based this action from information Zack presented in his  White Seamless Questions :: Part 1 video.

After running the white seamless Photoshop Action I run another action I made for retouching skin. I bases most of this action from Christy Schuler’s skin tutorial.

posted by admin at 3:11 pm  

Friday, August 7, 2009

Westcott 5-in-1 Reflector Product Review

Looking to improve your photos? One of the most powerful and useful pieces of equipment you can buy, and also one of the cheapest, is a 5-in-1 reflector. In fact, a good quality reflector is an essential piece of equipment for every serious photographer. The Westcott 5-in-1 reflector is an extremely well-made product and very affordable at only $40 (at the time of this review). I own the 40″ (1 meter) reflector and highly recommend it.

“5-in-1” means that it contains silver, gold, white, and black surfaces plus, with all of the covers removed, a translucent surface. Let’s look at each of these:

 Westcott 5-in-1 Reflector

* White Reflector – Do your subjects have raccoon eyes? A white reflector can be used to bounce light into shadows. If you are using a off-camera flash you can also bounce light off of the white reflector itself to create a larger light source.

* Silver Reflector – A silver reflector serves the same purpose as white but produces more specular highlights. The result is a higher-contrast image.

* Gold Reflector – Light takes on the color of what it bounces off of. The favorite of photographers shooting bikini-clad bodies on the beach, a gold reflector will warm up an image giving skin tones the Bay Watch look. (Or add warm light to the bouquet of flowers on your dinning room table>) Tip: You can also use a gold reflector as an out-of-focus background for portraits.

* Black Reflector – Taking away light is just as important as adding light. A black reflector can be used to make one side of the face in a portrait darker. It can also remove reflections.

* Translucent Fabric – Do you want really soft light? The bigger your light source, the softer your light. Holding the translucent disc is one way to do it. You can also shot through it with an off-camera flash.

All of the above equally apply to still-life and food photography as well. The reflector collapses to 1/3 of its size and slips into a carrying case. It’s light and easy to take with you.

At only $40.00, it’s a great value and something that you will use often and for a very long time. However, if you can not afford one now, then go pickup some white, silver, gold, and black pieces of flexible poster board and/or rigid foam core. In a limited way they can serve the same purpose (other than shooting through them of course!). All pro photographers that I know of will still supplement their lighting gear, including reflectors, with basic white and black foam core as necessary.

You can find the Westcott 5-in-1 Reflector here.

You can also make a DIY reflector holder my following these steps on studiolighting.net.

posted by admin at 8:39 am  

Monday, August 3, 2009

Mounting Bracket for AlienBees CyberSync Receiver

As I mentioned in my Flash Radio Remote Control System post, I originally attached my AlienBees CyberSyncs™ receiver to the flash head with Velcro and shortly found that to be problematic, since the receiver was interfering with the flash controls and light modifiers. I then incorporated a lanyard and allowed the receiver to hang from the light stand.

This worked okay until I wanted to reposition the light stand and the receiver bangs against the light stand. Not the best solution for on-location shoots. I need a mounting bracket for my CyberSync receivers, but unfortunately as far I can tell nobody makes one.  So I will.

However, I have a couple things to consider since I’ve been having issues with the OEM CyberSync PC sync cable lately.  It’s standard PC connector doesn’t fit the sync terminal on my Nikon SB-800 very well and I am getting an intermittent connection. This is really troublesome on location during a shoot.  I looked into some of the screw-on offers from Paramount and Zebra Cables.  I was already using a Paramount Hot Shoe Female to Miniphone cable #PW-MHSF1 to trigger a Nikon Speedlight SB-600 flash, so I decided to go with it since there’s a couple thing I really like about it.  The cable and hot shoe are molded as one piece and the Paramount hot shoe holds the flash better then my modified aluminum hot shoe.

Here’s what I came up with for securely mounting the CyberSyncs™ receiver, replacing the intermittent standard PC cable, replacing the modified aluminum hot shoe and for triggering any Nikon flash with or without a sync terminal.  Note that I am also use this same configuration on my SB-800s to keep everything standardization.

posted by admin at 2:42 pm  

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Rosco Cinegel Swatchbook

Rosco Cinegel Swatchbook

Strobist blog readers all know about the use of color correcting gels to convert flash output to tungsten light, florescent light, or any other color. The extreme popularity of the Strobist blog and David Hobby’s tip to use gels out of the Rosco sample packs, which can often be had for free and happen to be almost the same size as a flash head, has caused a run on the sample packs. Most camera stores are out of them. Just yesterday I was trying to find some myself in order to replace the gels I’ve been using. I checked several online stores, even those I prefer not to shop with, and everyone was out of them!

Luckily though, I’ve just got an email from B&H stating they have some back in stock!

You can find them here: Rosco Cinegel Swatchbook – 1.75 x 2.75″

Plus, if you are a member of the National Association of Photoshop Professionals (NAPP) you always get FREE 3-5 business days UPS shipping! NAPP members get a GREAT magazine (I struggle to read all of it each month) plus tons of other great perks. I find the free shipping from B&H nearly, if not entirely, pays for my NAPP membership each year.

In full disclosure, I added another item to my B&H order so I can not 100% guarantee you can order two sample packs with free shipping and only pay $2.00, but I believe it is possible.

posted by admin at 8:00 am  

Monday, June 15, 2009

Controlling Color by Balancing Light at Capture

photo_spydercube

“It’s like, how much more black could this be? And the answer is none. None more black.”

So said Nigel Tufnel in This is Spinal Tap, but only because didn’t have a SpyderCube. The SpyderCube is more a cube than a spider, and is used for tweaking the white balance and exposure of your photos. Sure, you could just let your camera set on auto white balance (I do) or tweak it by hand later in your RAW processing software (I do this, too), but the SpyderCube is way more accurate, and has something called a “Black Trap”, which we believe, although not mentioned in the specs, is the only thing in the universe from which a black hole cannot escape.

Accurate color in digital photos means that the camera needs to know what color the light is. The traditional way is to throw a gray or white card into the scene, snap a picture and then later, back at the computer, use this known neutral color to set the white balance for the whole batch. The SpyderCube is the same, but with a few added features.

First, it’s a cube, which means that it reflects light from different directions, allowing you to check the colors of main and fill lights, for example. Second, it combines gray, white and black so you can get help with exposure tweaks, too. Third, it has the scary Black Trap, which is in fact a hole into which light falls and never returns. This gives an absolute black value for the scene, as well as the lighter black from the outside faces.

Lastly, there is a shiny ball on top. This isn’t to tempt magpies on outdoor shoots. Rather, it gives a specular highlight, again useful for exposure tweaking. The price of this fade-free resin cube? $60, which isn’t that much more than a plain 18% gray card. I’m not pedantic enough to need one of these, and I usually tweak the white balance for atmosphere rather than accuracy anyway. But some people buy cameras and then spend their weekends shooting test charts and the like. This may just be your perfect toy.

Purchase the Spydercube here

posted by admin at 11:39 am  

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Flash Radio Remote Control System

CyberSync

Camera manufactures incorporate a flash unit on the top of SLR cameras and then include red-eye reduction features. The one camera flash can product some harsh shadows and shiny overexposed faces.

To solve this you need to take your flash off-camera and place the flashes off-axis. Be it wired and wireless, choosing how to trigger your flash off-camera is key and that decision should be made sooner than later.

Wired is a reasonably cheap and a effective method. The main consideration is what connections your camera and flash have that you can wire together and unfortunately some DSLRs often don’t have an industry standard PC socket. Imagine for a moment that computer manufacturers opted for proprietary connections instead of USB ports. The other issue is the spider wed to cables required to physically attached the camera body to the various flashes.

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posted by admin at 8:00 am  

Friday, May 15, 2009

HP LP2475w 24″ LCD Monitor

HP LP2475w

I am very pleased with my new 24″ LCD monitor that I received. It’s beautiful.

I’ve been researching LCD monitors and their technologies for a few months trying to make up my mind what to get. The best website on the topic that I found was www.tftcentral.co.uk. I wanted everything: 1920×1200 resolution, fantastic colors, wide gamut, lots of inputs, low latency, wide viewing angle, good technical support, a nice design, no dead pixels and not too expensive.

I often buy stuff by getting under the hood and choosing the best technology that those products use. With LCD monitors, there are 3 main technologies with a bunch of variants: TN film, *VA and *IPS. The bottom line is that all the cheap monitors use TN film. They offer fast response times but color and angle of viewing isn’t so good. All the expensive color critical type monitors use *IPS but there’s very few of them on the market. Apple uses *IPS for their stuff. In between TN film and IPS, you get *VA which can be very good. So the strategy for me was to buy *IPS if you can or go for *VA.
There’s an article on pchardwarehelp.com that tracks current S-IPS monitors on the market.  Based on availability of the time of writing this, it boiled down to Apple Cinema Displays, Dell 2408WFP, BenQ PF241W, Hazro or the HP LP2475W.

More, inside.
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posted by admin at 3:05 pm  

Sunday, April 19, 2009

David Tejada’s Assignment Bag

David Tejada is a commercial photographer bases out of Colorado. David shoots for many graphic design firms and Fortune 500 companies in Denver, Colorado and nationwide.

David Tejada carries a small Lightware case which holds most of the lighting gear. 4 Nikon SB-800’s, PocketWizards, 2 Bogen stands and some grip equipment. David Tejada has posted two new videos of his go-to lighting gear for shooting on location.


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posted by admin at 3:52 pm  

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Long Term Test of the Dakine Ridge Pack With Camera Block

By Frederic Audet (translated by Marc-Andre and Adrien) November 15 , 2006 – 22:10

As a passionate amateur photographer, I find myself needing to access different areas, easily accessible or not, with my photography equipment. To comfortably bring my equipment with me where ever I went, I needed to find myself a bag which would protect my equipment while giving me the mobility I needed to get to get to the many shooting spots . As a climbing, ski and mountain biking fanatic, I wanted a bag which enabled me to follow my friends wherever they went whether it was to shoot mountain biking events, skiing or climbing. I looked at many companies like Burton, LowePro, Canon, Dakine, etc.

More, inside.
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posted by admin at 3:22 pm  

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