Old Thirty Bastards… In Vegas

Vegas, baby, Vegas…

This past weekend, I left the city of Chicago to head to the City of Sin to celebrate the birthdays of some college friends. We crashed in a suite at the Cosmopolitan, which had a wonderful view of the strip as well as the water show at the Bellagio.

This time ’round, with it being such a quick weekend trip, there was no time to head out to Red Rock Canyon, there was only time to party.

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Rainbows & Sunsets…

I went down to a friend’s cabin this weekend for a day… We were looking forward to basking in the sun as we darted around the lake on their family boat, spraying children on the shore with our wake, chucking empty beer bottles at elderly folks, and leaving uncut 6-pack plastic rings in the water for fish and seals and birds to get their necks caught in… you know, what everybody does during Memorial Day weekend. Unfortunately, as soon as I arrived with my friends Andrew and Carrie, the sun went into hiding, and the clouds came out with it’s angry face. It rained for the majority of the afternoon, which sucked, but it stopped raining just in time for dinner. We were able to catch some double rainbows, and the angry clouds made for some dynamic sunset photos as we got on the boat for an evening cruise.

These were taken with the E-1 and 12-60mm f/2.8-4.0 lens. Not bad for a camera that’s 6 years old… I also had my E-620 with me, but I opted for the E-1 due to it’s weather sealing… just in case the clouds decided to unzip it’s pants and unload on us again. Fortunately, it didn’t, and I ended up with these two photos… (the second shot was taken holding the camera just above the water… getting it ever so slightly wet.)

The Bormann Boys (and the Adults They Hold Hostage)

My buddy Keith asked me to take some photos of his family, which consists of Keith, his beautiful wife, Jessica, and his super cute twin boys, Dylan and Carter (19 months old).  Seeing as how these tiny little bundles of mischief joy can be quite the divas (is the male form divos?), it was decided that the morning would be the best time to take photos.  Sunday morning, at 9am to be exact.  Yes, I’m normally a night person, and on weekends, my mornings are where I refill my sleep reservoir with much needed dreams of butterflies, rainbows, and morning dew.  I mean, who needs to see these things in person, when one can just dream about them?  In any case, I was able to drag myself out of bed, after an excellent night out with some friends who were visiting from out of town.  (Sidenote: I am also recovering from a slight cold, and as it turns out, Gin and Tonics and shots of Patron are actually not home remedies for the specific cold that I have.  I still have faith that it does cure something.  Probably just boredom.  And social awkwardness.)

More after the jump…

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Welcome to the family, grandpa!

So, as we speak, I’m on the Megabus heading to the Windy City (aka, Chica-Go)! I’m typing this up with my iPhone and the nifty wordpress app. In any case, this past week, I hit up National Camera Exchange down in Burnsville (a suburb to the south of Minneapolis) to check out the general state of photography equipment these days, and check out their used gear… Specifically, I had my eye on an old Olympus Zuiko 50mm f/1.4 prime lens. It was manufactured sometime back in the 70’s but it seemed to be in decent condition. With an adapter, i’ll be able to use this lens in manual or aperture priority mode with manual focus and setting the aperture manually via the aperture ring on the lens.

I took a look at it; it was a little dusty, but no fungus or obvious scratches on the front or rear element, so it was definitely in decent shape. Next to it were a couple of other legacy lenses I was considering as well for under $50; a 50mm f/1.8, a 28mm f/3.5, and 50mm f/3.5 macro lens. I already have a 50mm f/1.8, and was really considering the 28mm for a wider angle prime, but I already have a 25mm f/2.8 prime for my digital slr. Any I saw a nice useable film slr in the mix too! An OM-2… I’ll expound on the virtues of it’s awesomeness on a later post if I get around to it.

Mike & Megan in Maui

I took pictures for my friends’ (aka, former roommates, Mike & Megan) wedding in Maui.

Gear: Olympus E620, E1, ZD 12-60mm F/2.8-4.5, &50mm F2.0, Cactus V4 Flash Triggers, FL50R, FL50, 1/4 CTO Flash Gels, Lumiquest Gel Holder, and Honl speed strap.

Pics turned out really good.  I was pretty pleased with the results.  It was my first time using the flash gels which I had bought to use with the wedding in mind.  I used them to help match the flash with the fading light from the sunset, with the added bonus that shifting the white balance a bit would put a little more blue in the sky.  I started off with using only 1 flash, but later used two flashes triggered with the cactus v4 triggers, set at either 1/2 power or 1/4 power.  Key light was set directly opposite of the setting sun, and i took most of the shots about 30-45 degrees off that axis (with the 2nd flash, i would set it around 90 degrees off of the axis, with me between the flashes).  I didn’t bring any stands or other light modifiers, just the gels, so i had some friends assist by holding the flash (they held it around chest level).

Shots were mainly taken around f/5 – f/5.6 shutter speed 1/160 s- 1/320 s.

Anyway, I’m always learning with this photography thing.

Lessons learned:

Sync Speed:  I made some beginning strobist mistakes (I’m such a n00b)… I tried pushing the flash up past it’s sync speed (my camera’s sync speed is 1/160th of a second).  I thought it was working, til i looked at the pics on my computer monitor when I got home, and then it hit me.  I thought my flashes weren’t directed properly in some frames because it wasn’t getting the flash coverage.  I noticed it was always on the bottom of the frame (the mirror was cutting it off).  I was shooting 1/160th & 1/200th of a second okay, but the 1/250th and 1/320th all had the distinct underexposed areas in the frame.   (The reason I had the shutter so fast was to help darken the ambient light so i wouldn’t have any blown out highlights.  When trying to control light, the aperture controls the flash exposure, and shutter speed controls the ambient.)   In any case, the wide shots were okay cuz could crop it, but definitely something I’ll wanna keep in mind for the next time.  In hindsight, I should have used the neutral density filter or the polarizing filter i brought along to bring down the ambient.

Light Stands & Umbrellas: Another thing I would change is if I could have brought my light stands & umbrellas, that would have been nice to get the light above, and the umbrellas would have given a larger softer light source.  Would have created nicer catchlights in the eyes, and a little more even lighting.  Lighting from above would have given more natural shadows.

Light angles: I probably should have done a little more on axis fill flash.  I botched some pretty straight forward group photos cuz I was trying to stick with off camera flash, but better results would have been had with on axis (even on camera) fill.  But a lot of that had to do with not getting the light to come down from above, so it was some unanticipated and unnatural shadows being cast.  I also could have done a little more with rim lighting/hair light/back lighting.  Something for next time I suppose.  I mean, if I learned it all at once, there’d be no use for me to write this blog!

Gels: Something for next time: experiment with mixing gels, balancing/cancelling light, and setting a custom white balance in camera so I can get more accurate results when checking them out on location.

Other things to work on:  I need to take photos from more angles, and use longer focal lengths to compress the angle of view.  I figured I’d keep it pretty wide to really capture the scenery, but variety is the spice of life.  I need to mix it up and think outside of the box sometimes.

Anyway, I think that’s all for now.  If I think of something later, i’ll add it.

Comments/Critiques welcome.  My monitor isn’t calibrated (yet, hoping to get a calibrator over xmas), so there may be some general color issues.  Plus, I’m using a cheap TN monitor, word is the IPS monitors are where it’s at.  I’ll probably look into that at a later time.  Also, the compression seems to do some strange things to the photos, even color wise.  I’ll have to figure out something with that.