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Photography and Picture of the day18 Jun 2007 at 8:45 by Jean-Marc Liotier

Sometimes even clumsy old men like me manage to frame action. I quite like this picture I took last week-end of my daughter impacting the bottom of the pond after loosing her footing on the slippery bottom :

Now you are certainly all in awe of the über-quick action photography skills that yielded this nice aquatic instant. But then you are mistaken – this sort of picture is not really about the reaction time but about anticipation.

I was actually busy portraying the other girl when I sensed Pauline entering the pond and the periphery of the frame. First lesson : even when shooting keep the other eye mostly open so that you remain aware of your surroundings in spite of the viewfinder’s tunnel vision.

I knew that Pauline was barefoot and that on the smooth marble bottom she was bound to slip – and I had no time to stop her. So I just kept my index fully pressed on the shutter button and went cyclic, capturing frames continuously and as fast as my camera would bear. In three seconds I had a dozen frames and only this one worth keeping.

But I no longer care about a keeper’s ratio : a few years ago digital began to erode that notion, but now with thirteen gigabytes in my pocket I have enough memory so that the number of frames I record is no longer relevant at all. Second lesson : if there is even a remote chance that something interesting might happen, shoot first and ask questions later.

If you shoot video, this certainly sounds very familiar and it is : what I am actually doing is shooting a four frames per second video and later choose the frames I like. The purists are probably shuddering at the thought, but nowadays action photography is just video frame grabbing with a lower frame rate.

Photography frame rates are increasing, with the Canon 1D MkIII producing ten 10 megapixel frames per second with live preview, but video definition is increasing too – the Red HD digital video camera produces twelve megapixels at sixty frames per second with quality similar to a modern DSLR albeit at a quite different price point. You may have missed it, but convergence has already happened.

Journalists now have the technical means to produce photo as well as video. Just as people choose to make color or black and white pictures, whether you do it or not will soon be a matter of style, not of technical limits.

Consumption and Photography and Picture of the day26 Dec 2006 at 12:23 by Jean-Marc Liotier

After agonizing for a few months over a lighting equipment purchase decision I finally took the plunge and bought a couple of additional Canon Speedlite 580EX, in accordance to the teachings of the guru of small shoe-mount flashes.

Even cheap AC powered lights provide more power than the Canon portable strobes will ever put out, but I can carry the portable strobes anywhere in my backpack and set the up on a whim – and that fits my lifestyle much better. As Strobist says : “larger strobes have their place, but they tend to spend a lot of time in trunks and stuffed under beds. But the small, everyday strobe is always in the waistpack ready to go“.

I began playing with my new toys on this Christmas week-end as I happened to have a willing model at hand. My first setup was definitely random and the results are rather haphazard but I have at least the above picture to be quite happy with.

After that first experience I can already say that I do not regret my decision. A bunch of 580EX are really a pocket studio all by themselves – and with a €4 screw mount adapter I can even make good use of those flimsy toy tripods given away with breakfast cereal packs and spotting scopes. I now have ample room to grow my lighting skills and have loads of fun on the way. Expect more multiple flash experiments !

Photography and Picture of the day10 Oct 2006 at 23:26 by Jean-Marc Liotier

Direct sunlight creates unflattering hard shadows. Not having an assistant holding a reflector for me while I stroll along La Defense with the kids I had to improvise with the material at hand. Luckily, La Defense has a plentiful provision of variously reflective walls even larger than the largest reflector my non-existing assistant can handle.

So here is a picture of Calixthe dancing Coupé Décalé in the afternoon light. Barely a meter on our left was a large glass façade that provided the wonderful fill light on Calixthe’s face. That goes to show that even with no fancy hardware there are always plenty of opportunities for nice lighting that await the innovative souls.

Photography and Picture of the day23 Jun 2006 at 0:40 by Jean-Marc Liotier

Capturing emotions photographically is not something I only achieve very randomly. But that day I was lucky enough to be at the right time, at the right place with working equipment and a steady hand.

Photography and Picture of the day21 Jun 2006 at 0:10 by Jean-Marc Liotier

My keepers ratio for dance floor scenes is horrendously low, mostly because I can’t figure out how to focus on the right point with next to no ambient light apart from the occasional flickering red spotlight. Maybe I should try pre-focusing using the distance scale on my lens. For now my results are as much planning as generous gigage compensating for the dismal probabilities.

Talking about ambient light on the dance floor, you probably won’t see it because my Canon Speedlight 580EX also known as the portable sun almost drowns out everything else. Only when opening as much as made possible by my hardware and the moving nature of the subject (1/60s f/2.8 at ISO 1600) does a hint of ambient light register as you can see on the above picture. But I guess I’ll have to live with that : if I can’t get enough sharp shots with the flash, I would probably get none at all without it.

Picture of the day13 Jun 2006 at 21:21 by Jean-Marc Liotier

There is more to filtering than the lame and tasteless on-lens filters that render anything either as a sunset or as a pastel colored ethereal horror. About anything somewhat transparent can be used as a filtering material and if you look around you certainly have something you can use. Here are a couple of experimental results I found interesting :

The first one was captured through a misty window, and you probably have already seen such images. The second one is much more innovative : it was taken accross an empty bottle of fine Bordeaux wine during a picnic. I must admit that the great wine surely contributed to the creative process…

Photography and Picture of the day07 Jun 2006 at 2:17 by Jean-Marc Liotier

Camera laid on a bench for five seconds at f/11, barely cropped and passed through Neatimage. I like how the orange office lighting contrasts with the bright green. Made with Canon Eos 300D with EF 24-70/2.8 L.

Lawn and lighted office in the evening