Posts Tagged ‘tips’

Photographing the 2011 Vancouver Zombiewalk

August 21st, 2011 No comments

Each year the Vancouver Zombie Walk gets bigger and more popular. According to the Facebook event page, there were over 6,000 confirmed attendees. I don’t know how many zombies actually showed up, but I suspect more than that!

Many of the zombies also had cameras and smartphones, but with all the amazing costumes and special effect makeup, the event also attracted a lot of photographers and videographers. I was very interested in the gear that they were using! I saw a few people with HD-DSLR rigs and several with off-camera flash set-ups. Others had speedlites with various attachments to help diffuse the light. The flash set-ups were a good way to reduce the contrast by filling in the shadows. I saw one photographer with a vintage twin lens reflex camera (a Rolleiflex I think). There was some very impressive gear!

For those who may be interested, here’s some information about the photos that I took:

I used an Olympus E-30 with the Olympus 12-60 mm lens for wide angle and the 50-200 mm for zoom.

It was a bright sunny day, so I tried to find shady areas and expose for the shade. I also used backlighting and exposed for the shadow side of the zombies using centre-weighted mode. I had the in-body image stabilization and face detection on. I haven’t used face detection very often. I found that it sometimes focused on the wrong place, so I probably will avoid it in the future.  I set the camera to continuous (burst) shooting mode and continuous autofocus. That way I could fire off a bunch of action shots when a zombie started running towards me!

For lighting, I wanted to keep it simple so went with available light only. I used ISO 200 and a wide aperture (around f/2.8 to f/3.5) and a fast shutter speed to minimize the motion blur but also isolate the zombies from the background due to the shallow depth of field. I used the fastest shutter speeds that I could to minimize any blur caused by camera shake.

Here’s my gallery of Vancouver Zombie walk photos on Facebook. If you were at the zombie walk, you might be in the gallery – so feel free to tag yourself and your friends!

Also, feel free to share any links to your zombie walk photos as well as any tips about how you photographed the event. I’m looking forward to Zombiewalk 2012!

Vancouver Celebration of Light 2011 Fireworks – Spain

August 5th, 2011 No comments

Day 2 of the Celebration of Light fireworks competition in Vancouver featured Spain on August 3, 2011. I love photographing fireworks and tried out the focus blur technique for some of the shots and got some cool effects! I put the camera on a tripod and set the shutter speed to bulb, the aperture to f/9.0 and used a remote control to trigger the camera.

I first focused the lens and noted the position of the focus ring, then unfocused the lens drastically. I waited until I saw some promising looking fireworks being launched, and triggered the shutter. I then focused the lens to the original position as the fireworks exploded. The technique creates wide lines of light that gradually narrow giving a flower-petal effect. Here are some examples from the Flickr focus blur group. The trickiest part is to avoid excessive movement when focusing the camera to prevent shaky lines. Timing is crucial and many of my shots didn’t quite work out, but I did get a few nice shots!


Check out  my earlier post on Day 1 – China – July 30, 2011.

How to Create a Cool Animated Mist Effect in Photoshop CS5

May 23rd, 2011 2 comments
Animated Gifs

Animated Gifs

I love these animated gifs and wanted to try something like that myself. I did a photoshoot a couple of months ago and used a fog machine to create a misty background. It would be cool to show the mist swirling around in a short animated gif. The original photo had some mist, but I wanted to add some more in Photoshop and then animate it.



Original Photo


Fog Animation

Fog Animation Effect

Photoshop CS5

Level of difficulty: Intermediate. You should be familiar with working with layers, resizing images and using the warp tool.

Create the mist layers:

(Click on the screen shots to zoom)

    • Create a blank layer above the edited/retouched photo
    • Paint some mist on the blank layer & name the layer Mist 1. I used these mist brushes by SpiritSighs.
Mist Brushes

Mist Brushes

    • Copy the layer, name it Mist 2 and warp it using Edit => Transform => Warp. You can warp the mist to make it look like it has drifted around.
    • Copy the warped layer and repeat with another warp (Mist 3).
    • Copy the above layer and warp it again (Mist 4). You will now have the original image plus four mist layers above it. Click on Fig. 1 to expand.
Mist Layers

Fig. 1 Layer palette with mist layers

Create the Animation Frames:

    • Select the 5 layers and open the animation window (Window => animation – Fig. 2). Make sure you are in frame view (Fig. 3).

Fig. 2 Opening the Animation Window

Fig. 3 Animation window in frame view

  • Click on the frame and duplicate it by dragging it to the new frame icon. Repeat this four times to give a total of 5 frames (Fig. 4 & 5).
Duplicating the frame

Fig. 4 Duplicating the frame

Duplicating the frame

Fig. 5 Duplicating the frame

  • Click on the first frame. Go to the layers panel and make only the base layer (retouch) visible (Fig. 6).
Layer visiblity

Fig. 6 Click on the eye to hide, click again to reveal layer

  • Click on the second frame and make the retouch layer on the Mist 1 layer visible using the layers panel
  • Click on the third frame and make the base layer & the Mist 2 layer visible.
  • Click on the fourth frame and make the base layer & the Mist 3 layer visible
  • Click on the fifth frame & make the base layer & the Mist 4 layer visible
  • Select all 5 frames by clicking on the first and Shift-Clicking on the last one.
  • Change the frame delay time to 0.1 (Fig. 7) You can try different timings depending on what works best for your project.
Change frame delay

Fig. 7 Change frame delay

Tween the animation to make it run more smoothly

  • Click on the first frame and Shift-click on the second frame
  • Go to the animation menu and choose Tween… (Fig. 8)
Animation Menu

Fig. 8 Animation Menu

  • Enter 10 in the “frames to add box” and select all layers, and position & opacity (Fig. 9)
Fig 9 Tween Dialog Box

Fig. 9 Tween Dialog Box

  • Select frames 12 & 13 and repeat the Tween for these two frames. Repeat this for frames 23 & 24 and 34 & 35 (See Fig. 10)
Tweening Frames

Fig. 10 Tweening Frames

  • Duplicate the last frame (45) and move it to the front
  • Tween the first and second frames as before. This makes the animation smoothly cycle back to the beginning.
  • Make sure the repeat mode is “Forever”
  • Save everything!

Check it out – when you press the play button you will have a pretty smooth animation!

Save the animated gif

  • Resize the image to the size that you want (I used a height of 375 pixels because it gave me a file size under 2 MB). Go to Image => Image Size and select the size that you want, making sure to lock the aspect ratio.
  • Go to File => Save for Web & Devices.
  • Set to “forever”
  • Select Gif and Save (Fig. 11)
Fig. 11 Saving the GIF

Fig. 11 Saving the GIF

To view the animated gif, open it with your browser.

I’m looking forward to doing some more of these animations and have lots of ideas for future shoots! If you have tried it, please share by posting a link in the comments section.

Cool Background Ideas – Light Painting & Smoke!

March 29th, 2011 2 comments
Pink Potion

1. Pink Potion & Smoke - Exposure 2.5 sec, f/9.0, ISO 100

Here are the resuts of some quick test shots using black lights, smoke and light painting.

The subject was a vintage glass bottle with a ground glass stopper. I noticed a lot of these in the shop of Yusuf the chemist in Mombasa in the movie Inception! As a chemist, I’m always interested in vintage laboratory and apothecary items.

I made the pink fluorescent liquid by soaking the felt insert from a pink highlighter pen in some water. It worked really well! Here’s more information about how to make liquids that glow under black light.

For the black light source, I used a UV Cannon and a 12″ UV fluorescent tube.

I generated the smoke using a stick of incense. To light up the smoke, I used a Paul C. Buff  X800 White Lightning strobe with a pink gel, and a 10º honeycomb grid and barndoors to prevent light spill on the bottle. The background was a black nylon fabric. The bottle was placed on a piece of white foam core.

I’ve used smoke quite often as an interesting background – it works best with a dark background and backlighting. In this case, I had the light to the right of the camera and behind the bottle, out of frame. For people, I have a fog machine that gives great smoke effects on a larger scale.

To get the above shot, 1. Pink Potion & Smoke, I set the camera on a tripod and used second curtain sync (slow sync) and a 2.5 sec exposure and CyberSyncs to trigger the flash. I was below the table with the smoking incense, using a remote control to trigger the camera.

Pink potion & nebula

2. Pink Potion & Nebula - Exposure 71 sec, f/9.0, 100 ISO

For the next shot, 2. Pink Potion & Nebula, I used painting with light to create a nebula-like effect. For the the background, I used white seamless paper with a black nylon fabric covering it. With the black fabric in place, and the camera set to bulb, I started with a couple seconds of blacklight, then shut them off. While the shutter was still open and the studio in darkness, I removed the fabric to reveal the white seamless paper, I painted it with a Maglite flash light, with a blue gel over it some cool the light a bit, then closed the shutter with the remote. It took a few tries to get a background that I liked!

Pink Potion & Abstract

3. Pink Potion & Abstract - Exposure 48 sec, f/9.0, ISO 100

The third shot was done in a similar way as the second, except that I also used an LED flashlight and did not use the blue gel on the Maglite. The LED flashlight actually has three separate beams so it created trails in groups of 3, making an interesting abstract design.

If you are in need of a unique background in your still life or product photography, you might want to give these a try. If you have some similar examples, please share links to them in the comment section!






7 Twitter Tips for Photographers

March 19th, 2011 No comments

Twitter Bird
Twitter is continuing to grow in popularity with about 460K new users joining each day compared to about 300K last year.

My goal with Twitter is to find followers who are interested in my work, and to provide them with news and information related to photography, fashion, social media, design, art, science and music.

Finding Followers

You need to have followers to read your tweets, retweet and mention you.

  • Post your Twitter link wherever you can. My Twitter link is on my blog, website, and all of my social networking sites.
  • Look for people to follow by checking out who is following other Twitter users with similar interests, and start following them. Some of these contacts will start following you back. I give them a couple days to follow me back, but if they don’t, I will unfollow them to make sure that the number of people who I follow is not too much more than the number of people who are following me. There are tools and websites to help you to find and manage followers.

Follow back

It’s a good idea to follow back new followers. I check my new followers at least once per day and usually follow them back. This will help to encourage them to continue to follow you. You can check their bio, tweets and website to see if they share similar interests. Occasionally the follower is a spam bot or someone else who you don’t want to follow, so you can find out first before following back.

Add value

Find information that you think will be interesting and of value to your followers and tweet about it and share the link. Add a few words of your own to show what you found interesting about it, and consider adding appropriate hashtags to help others find it by searching Twitter.

Make your tweets interesting

Think of your tweets as headlines. You have 140 characters to catch someone’s attention, or they won’t check out the link or retweet.

Don’t spam

Don’t repeatedly send tweets about your sales and services. A rule of thumb is one self-promotional tweet per 10 tweets. If your tweet stream has too much hard sell content, people will probably not follow you.

Link to your photos

I post my photography to Flickr and send it to Twitter using the “Share This” menu above the photo and going to “Blog It”. I have set up Twitter as one of my blogs in the “Sharing & Extending” tab under the “Your Account”. You can also send photos to Twitter photo sharing sites such as TwitPic and yfrog and others.

Schedule your tweets

I like to spread my tweets throughout the day by scheduling them using Hootsuite. Right now I’m sending about one tweet per hour, usually starting around 6 a.m. Pacific Time and ending around midnight. I then add random tweets during the day whenever something interesting comes up. More people check Twitter during their lunch breaks, evenings, or weekends, so you might want to schedule your more important tweets to maximize the audience.

I’m currently reading The Linked Photographers’ Guide to Online Marketing and Social Media by Lindsay Adler and Rosh Sillars, which has an entire chapter of information on using Twitter, as well as chapters on other social media such as Flickr, YouTube, LinkedIn, Tumblr, Facebook and blogs. It’s a great resource for photographers just starting out, but has many ideas and tips for the more savvy social media users too.

Do you have some more tips for using Twitter? Share them in the comments section and don’t forget to tweet about this post!


How to Photograph the Lunar Eclipse

December 13th, 2010 3 comments
Vancouver Lunar Eclipse

Lunar Eclipse, Vancouver, August 27-28, 2007

I’m looking forward to the total lunar eclipse that will be visible from North America on the night of December 20-21, 2010.  The moon will travel through the earth’s shadow, and during the total eclipse it will become very dim, taking on a beautiful coppery red to orange colour depending on the atmospheric conditions. It’s pretty easy to get some great photos of the lunar eclipse as long as the weather cooperates and it’s not too cloudy. I’m hoping for a clear winter night!

Here are some tips and advice for photographing the lunar eclipse. The advice applies mainly to DSLR cameras, but the more advanced digital compact cameras should work well too.

Exposure settings

The brightness of the moon during the total eclipse can vary quite a lot, so it’s best to let the camera’s built-in light meter determine the exposure for you. Use the point metering mode (instead of an average reading), pointing the camera at the moon.

Use manual mode to set the aperture and shutter speed to give the correct exposure for the moon, which typically, will be 2 to 4 seconds at f/2.8 and ISO 100.

If you prefer to use aperture priority mode instead of manual mode, choose the maximum aperture for your lens to give you the fastest shutter speed at ISO 100. I don’t recommend a longer shutter speed than 2-4 seconds because the moon will become blurry due to the movement caused by the earth’s rotation. I was surprised how much movement takes place in a few seconds! Another way to further reduce the blurring caused by the long exposure is to increase the ISO. For most modern DSLR’s you should be able to go to ISO 400 with no problem, and some will be fine at ISO 800 and higher, depending on the camera.


Use a tripod because the exposures will be a few seconds, make it impossible to hand-hold the camera without blurring the image. If you do not have a tripod, you can find a stable place to set the camera, although it will be trickier to frame the moon in the viewfinder. For maximum flexibility, you could use a telescope mount that slowly moves the camera to compensate for the earth’s rotation, allowing you to have much longer exposure times.

Cable release

To prevent camera shake, use a cable release instead of pressing the shutter release by hand. If you do not have a cable release, you can use the self-timer so that the shutter will activate a few seconds after you press the button.

Turn off image stabilization

Image stabilization is not necessary when using a tripod. I use an Olympus E-510, which has image stabilization in the camera body, but for long exposures, the gyro mechanism actually increases the motion blur.

Turn off noise reduction

I usually turn it off and use Adobe Lightroom’s noise reduction feature. Noise reduction increases the time for the camera to process and save images to the memory card, so I prefer to turn it off.


One of the amazing things about the total lunar eclipse is the beautiful three dimensional spherical appearance of the moon. It is much more apparent than during the full moon, when it looks more like a two dimensional disk. I prefer to use the longest lens that I have in order to get as much detail at the highest resolution I can. Even with my 200 mm lens and 1.4x teleconverter, there’s still a lot of empty space in the frame! If you have a longer lens, congratulations, and I hope you get some great shots!

If you are in a location with some interesting foreground or landscape features, then you might want to use a wide angle lens to capture everything in one shot. In this case, you will have the additional complication of setting the exposure for the moon as well as the other parts of the photograph. For the foreground, you could use the on-camera flash (or an external flash if you have one). For the background landscape, it may not be feasible to use the same exposure for both the eclipse and the background. Also, the moon will look disappointingly small when you use a wide angle lens. For the Vancouver lunar eclipse shown above, I used Photoshop to combine the lunar eclipse photo with the cityscape shot the same night. You could also do a double exposure if your camera has the capability. One of the nice things about the double exposure method (or Photoshop) is that you can use the large moon image (shot with the the longer lens) to create a more dramatic looking photo.

Time lapse

Some of the most beautiful lunar eclipse images that I have seen show the moon going through the entire eclipse by using time lapse photography. The images can then be combined in Photoshop, or they can be made into a video. I have not tried doing a time lapse, and I’m planning do this for the Dec 20-21 lunar eclipse!

Bring a flashlight and gloves

It will be dark and probably very cold!

Good luck with you photos and feel free to share your results by posting a link in the comments section.

Lunar Eclipse Through the Clouds

Lunar Eclipse Through the Clouds, Vancouver, February 20, 2008

Related links

How to Photograph a Lunar Eclipse

Double Exposure Photography of the Moon

Tips for Photographing Glass

October 13th, 2010 2 comments
approved visit this site on Flickr” href=””>Medicinal Uses of Lime Water

Glass Apothecary Jar

I recently took some photos of antique glass apothecary jars using a technique called “bright field lighting”. Glass is tricky to shoot because it is both transparent and reflective. If you are not careful, here you will lose the definition of the edge of the glass and get unwanted reflections and highlights.

In this shot, more about I used a white background and lit it with a single strobe facing the background and placed it behind and below the glass jar. The jar was on a table covered with white paper and placed on top of a clear piece of glass.  I put black cards on each side of the jar to give more defined edges. I also used a reflector in front of the jar to increase the light on the label. The basic setup is shown in the lighting diagram.

I did some post-processing – changed the image to a sepia tone, using Lightroom and added a vintage photo to the background with Photoshop. I used a levels adjustment layer to increase the brightness of the label.

Lighting Setup for glass

Lighting setup for glass

The next photo shows a basic image of a glass of water with a couple of drops of food coloring, shot using the same technique without the Photoshop work. In this image I adjusted the contrast and removed a few stray water drops using the dust removal tool in Lightroom.

Glass Lighting

Lighting Glass with Bright Field Method

Another way to photograph glass is by using a dark background with highlighted edges such as in the photo of the glass vase below.  The strobe was placed behind a black background, which was placed in front of a larger white background. The strobe was facing towards the white background, so the edges of the vase were lit by the reflected light.

Glass on Black

Glass on Black

It is very helpful to use a tripod to aid in composing the shots and to help tweak the setup. Although I used strobes for these shots, continuous lighting will work too, and a tripod will allow you to use longer shutter speeds with no problem.

A great reference for lighting, including glass is Light – Science & Magic by Hunter, Biver and Fuqua.

Here are some more tips for lighting glass:

Lighting glass
How to photograph transparent and glassy objects – Tutorial
Tips on How to Photograph Glass

5 Flickr Productivity Tips

September 22nd, 2010 1 comment

Sidney, BC, Canada

I’m a regular Flickr user and have developed a few ways to be more productive when I visit the site. I post photos, check out the latest photos from my contacts and explore a few groups every day.

It can be time consuming, but if you use a few tricks you can be much more effective with the time you spend on the site.

Posting to Groups

I use Steeev’s Multi Group Sender when I want to post a photo to several different groups. It’s a Greasemonkey script that works with Firefox, Opera, Safari and Chrome browsers. When you install the script, a dropdown menu will be available above each of your photos on Flickr. It gives you a much faster way to select groups and send your photo to them at once and saving you lots of time!

Viewing Photostreams

I use Cooliris to quickly explore photostreams on Flickr. This includes photos in a group, in a contact’s photostream, in sets, and in all your contact’s recent uploads. Once you install Cooliris, a small icon will appear on photos. When you click on it, the photos will appear on black and you can rapidly browse in a very cool interface. You can stop and click on the link to return to Flickr to comment and favourite photos. Cooliris works with photos in other photostreams besides Flickr as well.


Commenting is a great way to give feedback in the Flickr community, but many groups have special codes that they want you to use. Instead of the using the time-consuming process of cutting and pasting the codes every time you visit a group, you can install the Greasemonkey script Trailr, which will automate inserting the comment codes for you once you have set them up.


I use the Flickr Uploadr tool most of the time. It’s free and lets you rename, tag and send photos directly to sets. If you have Lightroom 3, you can use the Publish Services panel in the Library module to upload photos. I use Lightroom a lot and will be using this feature more often. Another great way to upload from Lightroom is with Jeffrey’s “Export to Flickr” Lightroom  plug-in. It is much more comprehensive than the Flickr Uploadr tool, with all sorts of ways of handling your uploads, including sending a message to Twitter after completing the upload.

Flickr Stats

This is a great way to monitor activity on your Flickr account – you get information on numbers of views, where the traffic is coming from, and what keywords were used to search for your images.

More Tips

What productivity tools do you use with Flickr? Add them in the comment section!

Check out Squidoo and Flickr Tips for more Flickr secrets and tips.

Photoshop Tip: Bokeh Effect for Glam Makeup Shot

September 5th, 2010 No comments

Gold Glam Lips Bokeh is normally created in-camera by using a shallow depth-of-field and focusing on the subject and allowing the other parts of the image to become blurry. For this shot I wanted to create a glam look by adding some bokeh in Photoshop.

First I retouched the photo, smoothing the skin and removing any blemishes. There are a variety of ways to do this – here is one short step-by-step example.

I added a blank layer above the top layer, and selected a hard-edged round brush and set the foreground colour to white. I wanted the brush to paint a bunch of random circles so I went to the brush window and selected “shape dynamics” and moved the slider for “size jitter” to around 30%, selected “scattering” and checked “both axes” and moved the slider to around 480%, “count” to 2, and “count jitter” to around 30%. FInally, I selected “other dynamics” and changed the “opacity jitter” to 10%. You might need to play around with the settings to get something that looks good for you. I then painted the layer with a few strokes. I added a layer effect – “gradient overlay” and used white for the foreground colour and some gold from the lips for the background. It was a linear gradient with an angle of 118 degrees, and normal blend mode.  Finally, I adjusted the layer opacity to 67%.

I then added another blank layer above this, and painted some more circles, then I used the Gaussian blur filter to make these blurry. You will need to play around with the radius that best works for you. I added some layer effects – “outer glow” and used the eye dropper to grab some gold colour from the lips, and changed the blend mode to screen. I also used “inner glow” with a light yellow colour (ffffbe).  I used a levels adjustment layer, clipped to this layer and lightened up the bokeh circles until they glowed a little. I then changed the layer opacity to about 50%.

Finally, I used a curves adjustment layer above all the other layers to tweak the contrast of the overall image.

Here’s another tutorial for creating an awesome digital bokeh effect.

7 Tips for Great Fireworks Photos

July 22nd, 2010 2 comments
Celebration of Light - USA

Celebration of Light - USA

The 2010 Celebration of Light fireworks competition got underway last night with the entry from the USA team. This year USA, Mexico, Spain and China will be competing.

Fireworks, with lots of light, colours and motion, are a great subject for photographers. I’m amazed at the incredible details of the plumes of light that show up in the photos, even though the fireworks last only a few seconds.

Here are a few tips for taking some great photography photos:

  1. Use a tripod. You need long exposures (several seconds) and holding the camera by hand will cause the images to look shaky. If you don’t have a tripod handy, look for a spot that you can place the camera.
  2. Use a cable release – this also prevents camera shake.
  3. Exposure: 4 seconds at f/8.0 works well (ISO 100). You can play around with the exposure – usually you’ll want a long enough shutter speed to capture the trails of light, which is about 4 to 6 seconds.
  4. Use manual focus. You can prefocus on some bursts and then keep the same focus for the subsequent shots.
  5. Try focus blurring – this is a little tricky but the idea is to change the focus during the exposure to give some interesting looking shots. Check out Focus Blur group on Flickr for more details.
  6. Try setting the camera’s shutter on “bulb” and covering the lens with a black cloth (in a pinch your hand will do). When a particularly dramatic explosion happens, you can remove the cloth for a couple of seconds and then cover it and wait for the next one. After 2 or 3 bursts you can close the shutter.
  7. I prefer to shoot in RAW format and adjust the image later using Lightroom (or any other raw image editor). Try different white balances – tungsten usually looks pretty nice!
Celebration of Light - USA

USA Celebration of Light

Related links:

Fireworks photography guide

11 Tips for Sparkling Fireworks Photos