Monday, June 30, 2008

Base Jumping in The Fort, Philippines

Went to Fort Bonifacio, Philippines, to an Ozone event in order to catch with some of my Power Kiting friends, Bam, Buko & Rodel and found out that a bunch of Americans were going to base jump off the top of the "South of Market" building.

In my mind the only way down a building is on the inside, preferably in an elevator or possibly using the stairs. But these guys prefer the good old fashioned parachute!!!!

I was talking to one of the who mentioned that any building which is taller than 250ft is OK, but I'm convinced that with my excess weight a building around 500ft would be more applicable. Still the lift would be the preferred choice by far.

The photos are not brilliant (I was very nervous and I was standing on the ground!) but they capture what went on.

Three of the four jumpers discussing the jump (I hope), but it looks more like a casual conversation about the price of coffee!


The cameras came out in force - mine being one of them - and some cameras seemed to be nearly as big as their owners!

Cool shades were definitely the fashion accessory of the day :-)

The next set of photos shows the first guy jumping and he starts with a back flip! As if it isn't exciting enough with a plain old jump!


I can;t believe how casual they are about this jumping business. I'd have to change my pants after doing that jump!

The rest of the photos show other jumps

It was a really exciting day and happily everyone landed safely. In the end my theory about my preferred choice of moving vertically in a building remains unchanged :-)

You can see all of my photos from the day on my photo site

Please feel free to leave comments or questions below or email them to me.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Taking Smoke Photos

After forever and a day I finally decided to try and do shoot smoke images. I've seen them done, seemingly by every man and his dog, but each time I think that they are cool. Not sure what it is about photos of smoke but most people like seeing them, maybe something to do with the patterns they create and the shades that are captured in each photo.

I'm not sure about anyone else, but once I had setup the lights it was a case of shoot at random. After a while I started to recognize when to take a shot, i.e. when the smoke was in the middle(ish) of the frame AND was forming a shape. I realize that this sounds obvious, but it's a bit harder than I initially had thought.

Below is the setup I used for the smoke images. I would separate the background form the smoke even further next time to remove any spill form the lights.

I used 2 x 580EXII with pocket wizards, one either side. These were set at 24mm @1/8. I initially used a Stofen filter to ensure the whole area was covered, but the last set of photos I shot were just bare flash. I stopped down the flash when I removed the Stofen filter and I think that the smoke looks brighter without the Stofen filter.

The photo below shows the kind of incense that I used.

The shots below are the final set of my favourite images.


Plain Smoke - no colour changes were done
Graceful lady blowing smoke ring - no colour changes were done

Coloured Smoke
- Altered in Photoshop using a photo filter adjustment layer

Alien - Altered in Photoshop using photo filter adjustment layers

Dragon - Altered in Photoshop using photo filter adjustment layers


Beauty and the Beast - Altered in Photoshop using photo filter adjustment layers
In the end I really enjoyed doing this and seeing the results. However be warned sorting through nearly 300 photos to find good ones take a lot of time!

My friend Vincent LETERRIER recently suggested I use a f/10 aperture rather than the f/5.6 so it seems that I will return again to this topic - hopefully in the next few days :-)

Please feel free to leave comments or questions below or email them to me.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Off Topic: Photoshop Filters

Just a fun post today.

I use Adobe Photoshop less and less these days as I become more reliant on using Abode Lightroom to handle my RAW files and work flow. Of course I am also trying to get a better picture in camera rather than hoping that I will be able to enhance it later in Photoshop - which I used to do a lot!

However, I recently took some photos of staff from our local church and decided I would use Photoshop to enhance the portraits as well as creating a fun group photo.

This is the original group photo I took:
The next photo is a simple Gaussian blur with the faces of each person masked off. The layer was then changed to overlay and given about a 50% opacity. I also added in a saturation adjustment layer with +10 saturation.
The next photo was a fun photo. I have never had a reason or seen a need to use the Stained Glass filter in Photoshop, but I thought that it would be appropriate to use for a group picture of people who worked for the Church. I had to play around with the settings a lot to get the balance between the size of the glass and the thickness of the black lines. I also used a saturation adjustment layer to enhance the stain glass colours by adjusting the saturation to +100!

The image by itself may not be spectacular but I feel that, shown with the original photo and in the context of the nature of the photo, the filter worked well in this instance.


For the portrait shots I also decided to give the typical soft look using the Gaussian blur filter. The first photo below shows the original shot, which is very clear and crisp, as I was using my Canon 70-200mm F/4 L USM IS lens (which is totally awesome!). This crispness and clarity is normally exactly what I am looking for, but for portraits it reveals every and any blemish in the skin.

This original portrait of Herminia is very nice and reveals a beautiful face and smile with gorgeous eyes. However when I zoomed to 100% I discovered on each of the portraits I had taken the skin was just too crisp and needed a bit of assistance in smoothing it out (which is why models in shoots where make-up).
To enhance the photo I basically focussed on working with the skin. I started by duplicating the layer and applying a typical Gaussian blur filter using a radius of 9 (due to the large size of the image) and then gave it a 45% opacity. I then added a mask layer to this and masked the eyes and mouth to keep them crisp.

Once I had completed the masking I added in a saturation adjustment layer set to +10, and then a levels adjustment layer to make it slightly brighter.

In the end this little project has rekindled my relationship with Photoshop, which had kind of died down since I purchased Lightroom. Recently I have focused on trying to improve my photography by getting the best picture possible out of the camera, and have been enjoying the results of my effort. I realize now though that Photoshop, when used appropriately, is still a very useful tool which can help change a good image into an even better one.

NOTE: 99.99% of the time Photoshop will not be able to help change a bad photo into a better one. User be warned :-)

Please feel free to leave comments or questions below or email them to me.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Strobist PH: First Meet Up - Makati, Philippines

After about three months since Brian Kitane and I, met online through Strobist.com, we finally had our first Strobist Philippines meet up.

After we first met we unearthed many other Strobists here in the Philippines, who had been lurking in the background, each of whom was excited about there being a bunch of people right here and who had a similar addiction passion.

There was a lot of excitement about the first meet, and we initially started off planning something too complex. Eventually we got down to a basic agenda:
  1. Get to know each other
  2. Everyone have a try at something
  3. Have lots of fun.
I'm glad to say with confidence that all three goals were achieved. I know that I personally learned a lot from watching everyone and it was fun getting to know the people.

The following shots were my favourite which I took:

Group Shot
We'd seen that many of the other meets around the world included a group shot so we decided create our own group shot.
Actually it was my camera, but Marco Malaca was the man who set the shot up
Strobist Information:
Lots of flashes - Canon triggered by Pocket Wizard, Nikon triggered remotely


The "David Hobby" concept
These shots was inspired by David Hobby's Flickr avatar. All we were missing was the cool Apple logo on the back on the notebook!

Strobist Information: Bare Nikon SB-800 behind backdrop
Bare Canon 580EX II bouncing off notebook screen covered with white paper
Snooted Nikon SB-800 with 8" Honl Snoot on front of the notebook

Strobist Information: Bare Nikon SB-800 behind backdrop
Bare Canon 580EX II bouncing off notebook screen covered with white paper


The Portrait
These shots were taken as standard head shots for some of the people who attended. Strobist Information: Nikon SB-800 with 1/4" Speed Grid right back
Nikon SB-800 with 1/8" Speed Grid left back
Canon 580EX II through
Lastolite EzyBox front

The next shot included an umbrella which caused a lot more grief than we had anticipated to get it lit well.
Strobist Information: Nikon SB-800 with 1/4" Speed Grid right back
Nikon SB-800 with 1/8" Speed Grid left back
Canon 580EX II through
Lastolite EzyBox front
Canon 580EX II with Gobo behind pointing at umbrella

Strobist Information: Nikon SB-800 with 1/4" Speed Grid right back
Nikon SB-800 with 1/8" Speed Grid left back
Canon 580EX II through
Lastolite EzyBox front

Strobist Information: Nikon SB-800 with 1/4" Speed Grid right back
Nikon SB-800 with 1/8" Speed Grid left back
Canon 580EX II through
Lastolite EzyBox front



The Clam Shot
I had just purchased a Lastolite EzyBox and Tri-Grip and wanted to try them out with the simple head shot.
These are my mug shots :-)

Strobist Information: Canon 580EX II through
Lastolite EzyBox front
Lastolite Tri-Grip Reflector (Gold)

Strobist Information: Canon 580EX II through Lastolite EzyBox front


There are many more shots from the other participants which can be found at Strobist PH. If you're living in the Philippines and would like to become part of the Philippine Strobist group head over to
Strobist PH where you'll be able to join and get the latest updates on the activities and meets.

Please feel free to leave comments or questions below or email them to me.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Strobist Lighting 102: Assignment - Balance

The assignment from the course Lighting 102 was technically supposed to be a shot which balanced ambient and flash lights that makes a difference to someone. I discovered that the church I attend here in Manila, Philippines, was in the process of redesigning their web site and needed photos of their administration staff to put on their website.

So during a talk with one of the Pastors here I offered to take the photos of the administration staff as a group and individual portraits to put on their website (and I'm also planning to produce print outs for each of the staff as a surprise).

This was my first 'portrait session' and I was very nervous, mainly because I was worried about wasting a lot of time getting a correct exposure (and making a fool of myself with the end results being a set of really bad portraits).

In the end I used a relatively simple setup for both shots. The group shot was taken from a balcony looking down on the group with three lights left, center and right of the group.

If I had more time I would have tried raising the lights more and putting them all on Stofen filters or umbrellas. The group were really fun to work with and were willing to try new things to get a fun group photo.

For the portraits I placed the main light center right of the camera with a Lastolite EzyBox soft box with a 580EX II set to @1/16 50mm. For the kicker placed camera left at the back I used a 580EX II set to @1/64 @105mm with a Honl 1/4" Speed Grid. Lastly I used a 430EX set to @1/8 50mm with Stofen filter and flag to stop it affecting the image. If I shot this again I would try to drop the background down a stop and may try and play with the kicker's position and power.

Of all the photos I took, the two groups shots above and the five portraits below are my favorites:

All the shots were taken with a Canon 30D with a 70-200mm f/4 IS USM lens and Pocket Wizards.

Please feel free to leave comments or questions below or email them to me.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Using Guide Numbers with Multiple Strobes

This is my final article on using Guide Numbers with external flash units. My goal of these articles has been to help new and infrequent users of their flashes / strobes to get close to a good starting point as possible in terms of exposure. From the starting point it should very quick to get to the exact exposure you're trying to achieve.

I've had a number of comments in the Strobist Discussion forums from people who disagree with using guide numbers to calculate exposures. But in the end I feel that guide numbers - used as guides - give a good estimate. Which is why I've tried to show the "proof of the pudding" in this series of articles.

Using Guide Number tables that I wrote about also allows you to enter in Guide Number that you feel are more realistic and use these for initial setups. I'm hoping to get my hands on a few different light meters and try and calculate a more accurate set of guide numbers - if anyone has a set of GN's that they feel are more "accurate" please send me an email with the details for me to test.

So for this last article I wanted to test the theory of combining flash units and light modifiers and using the Guide Numbers I had calculated in my previous article. So here goes...

Single Flash
1 x 580 EX II flash - Camera Right
Bare light
1/250th @f22 - metered for -2 Stops against the sky.
WB set to Tungsten

Dual Flash
2 x 580 EX II flash - Camera Right
Bare light
1/250th @f22 - metered for -2 Stops against the sky.
WB set to Tungsten

Duel Flash (CTO-Full)
2 x 580 EX II flash - Camera Right
Bare light with CTO-Full gel
1/250th @f22 - metered for -2 Stops against the sky.
WB set to Tungsten


Duel Flash (CTO-Full)
2 x 580 EX II flash - Camera Right
Bare light with CTO-Full gel
1/250th @f22 - metered for -2 Stops against the sky.
WB set to Tungsten



Duel Flash - Mixed (CTO-Full)
1 x 580 EX II flash - Camera Right
1 x 430 EX flash - Camera Right
Bare light with CTO-Full gel
1/250th @f22 - metered for -2 Stops against the sky.
WB set to Tungsten


Duel Flash - Mixed (CTO-Full)
I thought it was three flash units but one didn't fire
1 x 580 EX II flash - Camera Right
1 x 430 EX flash - Camera Right
Bare light with CTO-Full gel
1/250th @f22 - metered for -2 Stops against the sky.
WB set to Tungsten


Triple Flash - Mixed (CTO-Full)
2 x 580 EX II flash - Camera Right
1 x 430 EX flash - Camera Right
Bare light with CTO-Full gel
1/250th @f22 - metered for -2 Stops against the sky.
WB set to Tungsten

Triple Flash - Mixed (Stofen)
2 x 580 EX II flash - Camera Right
1 x 430 EX flash - Camera Right
Stofen Filter with CTO-Full gel
1/250th @f22 - metered for -2 Stops against the sky.
WB set to Tungsten

Triple Flash - Mixed (Stofen)
2 x 580 EX II flash - Camera Right
1 x 430 EX flash - Camera Right
Stofen Filter with CTO-Full gel
1/250th @f22 - metered for -2 Stops against the sky.
WB set to Tungsten

I hope you have enjoyed reading these articles and have removed the fear many people have of using guide numbers. In the end the above pictures are not perfect but I feel are good starting points for a photo shoot.

Please feel free to leave comments or questions below or email them to me.

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