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Sandbags! Sandbags! Sandbags!

First, some house keeping. I’ve been on a hiatus for the past few months, work, school and other things have gotten in the way of me writing post or finishing the site. I hope to have everything up and running in the next month or so! Thanks for being so patient!

Just a quick post today that was sparked by a mistake I made today. I just bought the Nikon SU-800 and the way I have my room set up, it was impossible for the SU to trigger the the SB-900 I have mounted at ceiling height. To over come this problem I set the SU on a light stand and raised that to the same level as the SB and tethered that to my camera via an SC-29 cable.

Everything is all good and dandy, camera fires, signal carried to SU and triggered the SB with full TTL control. One problem, I didn’t think about putting a sandbag on the stand the SU was mounted to. I was thinking “I don’t need a sandbag, all I’m shooting is a dog sitting on my bed, which is less than 2 metres from the stand. It should be stable enough, right?” WRONG! I began firing off a couple a fames, getting different angles, and BOOM I hear a crash behind me.

Before I knew it my SU-800 was on the ground. Not a big deal, my floors are carpet. After I picked up the stand, I noticed things weren’t sitting straight. The fall had fractured the thread mount on the bottom of the SC-29. It didn’t look like that there was much damage, just a hair line fracture.

After stabilizing the stand with a sandbag, I got back to shooting...well tried. The fracture  or movement severed a cable inside the SC-29 and now I’ve got to buy another one, it retails for around $100. The take way of this lesson is, a $10 sandbag can and will save your equipment and is worth putting on any light stand or c-stand you may be using. Even if its just a quick shoot, bag it!

If you’re wondering which leg to put the sandbag on, it should be placed on the leg that is facing the direction of the weight so that the sandbag is directly below the object. Also if using a c-stand, the sandbag goes on the highest leg, which is also facing the direction of the weighted object.


Ps. If you’re wondering what photo broke my cable, here is it.



Fireworks Photography

Photo by: Andrew Ebrahim


I've always loved watching fireworks and I've alway wanted to photograph them, so with the Victoria Day fireworks just a couple of hours away, I though I would do a post on how to shoot this beautiful display of colors and shapes. Shooting these kinds of events are a bit on the tricky side, more often then not you'll end up with a blurry mess of colors and lines. So hopefully after reading this, you'll be able to capture these explosions of colors.

Camera settings

This is where you have a bit of guess work. It's all about the timing and getting the right moment. You'll want to set your camera to its native ISO setting, whether that be ISO 50, 100 or 200, you want to stay low. This is to ensure that you have as little noise as possible and it will allow you to do long exposures without overexposing everything. With the aperture of your camera, you'll want to be shooting in the f/8 to f/10 range, I found this to be a good balance between the amount of light it lets in and the length of my exposure. Lastly, but most important, is your shutter speed. You'll need to play around with this depending on the size and what you want to capture in your photograph. Too short, you'll only capture a faint glimmer of light, too long and all you'll see is white overexposed fireworks. I shot between 2 and 5 seconds, and it gave me the results I was looking for.


This will make or break your photos. With such a long exposure time, you need to have your camera on a stable platform. You want your camera as still as possible! If you have a cable release or a wireless trigger for your camera, use it. Also, you should tie down any straps you have attached to the camera or tripod, you'd be amazed at how much vibration can be caused by the straps blowing in the wind. If your tripod has a centre column, don't use it, it will just make your camera less stable. If you need to move your camera up, find a higher position to shoot from! You want to have the most stable position for your camera to get those tack sharp images.


Set your lens to focus at infinity and lock it there. If you can manually focus, great! If not, a small trick would be to use your cameras auto-focus to focus on the barge, or platform they are launching the fireworks from and then lock the focus by switching into manual focus and then recompose your shot.


This plays a major role in how your photos will turn out. Arrive early, not just a couple minutes early, but hours early! If possible, ask the event organizer where the fireworks will be launched from, this will give you a good idea of where you should be. Get away from the crowds! Its great to be with people when your watching these shows, but when you photograph them, the less the better. You don't want the back of people's heads popping into your frame, or worse, someone tripping over your tripod and knocking down your entire rig. Try and find a place that is away from any obstacles, and that will cover you from the weather (wind, rain etc). Also, try and avoid stray lights, such as city lights and street lamps, they can cause flare in your images that you wont notice until its too late. If you are shooting close to other sources of lights, use a lens hood to try and remove as much of the flare as possible. Lastly, look at your entire frame, not just where the fireworks are going to be, but your entire frame! Check to make sure you don't have random objects sticking into the side of your frame, tree branches are notorious for this. That said, you want to find a unique location and make a photograph truly unique to you.

Finally, just a couple of small tips to wrap up this article. Bring a flashlight, if you need to change camera settings or look for something in you're bag, you don't want to be missing shots just because you can't see your buttons. Turn off your flash, when you're more than 5 or 10m away from something, you're flash is going to do next to nothing, so don't waste your battery on a useless flash. Bring different lenses, get shots that no one else has. Shoot wide, shoot close up, shot from up high or down low. Set your camera to the highest settings, this is usually in the form of uncompressed RAW images, you might not think you'll need it, but if you under/over-expose or want to tweak your images, this will give you the best quality. With huge files, you need to bring extra memory cards with you. When shooting at night, white balance your camera to tungsten, that way you'll capture the vibrance of the night sky. Last, but not least, practice, practice, practice! Practice taking your lenses on and off, changing your memory cards, know where the aperture and shutter setting are on your camera!

To make this image, I was shooting the pre-Victoria Day fireworks at Ontario Place. I shot this far from any crowds or any city lights. I'm actually not at Ontario Place, I'm across the lake! I took some of the usual images of just the explosions, but with the finally coming up, I decided to shoot with my fisheye lens so that I would get the city with the fireworks being reflected off the lake. I balanced my exposure to properly expose for the city, while maintaining the vibrance of fireworks.

Happy shooting.


The Basic Kit

So you’ve just bought your first camera, what do you do with it now? Take pictures of course! We’ll its not that simple. Whether you’re a pro or a hobbyist, there are a few things that everyone should have in and around your camera bag when you’re out in the field.

1. Blower
2. Lens Pen
3. Microfiber clothes
4. Extra batteries
5. Extra memory cards
6. Flash
7. Camera manual

1. Blower. The blower has probably become one of my most used and most essential item in my kit. It does exactly what it sounds like, blow air. If you want sharp clear images without any random spots, the blower is the first line in your defence of dust on your lens and sensor. A couple of blows usually does the trick and it just takes a couple of seconds! I was never a huge fan of using a blower because it never seemed to do the trick for me, I always wiped my lenses with a microfiber cloth, that was until I picked up the Visible Dust Zeeion. Its by far the best blower I’ve ever used, granted I haven’t tried the much loved Rocket Blower, but the Zeeion is great! When most blowers cost between $10 and $20, the Zeeion is a bit on the pricey side at $49.95 CAD, but well worth every penny. The Zeeon works by creating an anti-static charge in the air coming out from it, along with having filters at both the intake and exhaust points, all to ensure you’re not blowing any dust back on your lens or senor. You can purchase the Visible Dust Zeeion blower here.

2. Lens Pen. The second line of defence of the much hated dust is the Lens Pen. There are many third party makers of similar products, but the one I love and trust is the original Lens Pen. It’s a pen shaped device that has a soft brush on one end to remove those stubborn dust particles, and has a non-liquid cleaning element. With today’s manufacturers producing lenses that have special coatings on them, its best not to use any kind of liquid cleaning solution on the lens. These coatings take millions of dollars to develop and are there to help you make that perfect image. Once you remove that coating, the performance of your lens can degrade drastically. So don’t make the mistake of using a cheap liquid cleaner on your thousands of dollars worth in glass. At $14.99 its definitely something all photogs need in their bags. You can pick up your own Lens Pen here.

3. Microfiber clothes. You can not have enough microfiber clothes! You can not have enough microfiber clothes! You can not have enough microfiber clothes! These things are amazing cheap and you can use them for almost everything. At a couple of dollars a pop you should have them in every pocket of your camera bag! Use them to wipe down your lens if its got some moisture on it, clean your camera, there is so much you can do with it. Here’s an example if you’ve never had one of these.

4. Batteries. This is the life blood of your camera, no power, no pictures. Simple as that. So make sure you have plenty of extra with you. I usually have two batteries in my camera (one in the body, one in the battery grip) and carry one or two extra in my bag. You need to keep in mind the conditions that you will be shooting in. Colder temperatures will tend to drain your battery faster. I’ll do a post on cold weather shooting later on. If you’re using your camera’s built in flash, which you should never use, your batter will drain faster. If you spend more time looking at your LCD reviewing your photos, your battery won’t last as long. Just keep in mind where you’ll be shooting and how you’ll be shooting. It’s always better to have more batteries than you need!

5. Memory Cards. As with batteries, you need to have multiple of these. Not only do these cameras produce large files that gobble up memory as if there was no tomorrow, memory cards are the only way you can store your images. So it doesn’t matter if you’ve still got power in your camera when your card is full, you still can’t take any photos. If you fill your card up and have to stand there reviewing each one and deleting them one-by-one, I can bet that you’ll miss a shot. If your camera supports UDMA, take advantage of it and use a UDMA card with your camera, you’ll benefit greatly from the speed of the card. If you’re going on vacation, and think you need a certain number of cards, bring double! Always have more than enough cards, you wont regret it.

6. Flash. While most cameras, if not all, consumer and pro-sumer level camera have a built in flash, its crap! That’s why you never see a professional level camera have a built-in flash. The use of an off-camera flash or bouncing your flash off a wall or a ceiling is the easiest way to make it look like natural light. Using your flash off camera is easier than ever, with such system like Nikon’s Creative Lighting System (CLS) or Canon’s ST-E2 transmitter, you can easily bring your TTL flash off camera with full control. Groups like Strobist have made it so easy to learn the basic and advanced techniques when it comes to using off-camera flashes. You might not always need to use a flash in your situation, but when you need to pop a little bit of light into a scene, having a flash in your bag is priceless.

7. Camera manual. I know, I know, it’s probably the most boring thing you’ve had to ever read. We all hate reading them, but its something you need to do when you get your new camera. Camera’s these days are like mini supercomputers, they can do hundreds of things that photographers could only have wished for not too long ago, and I don’t know about you, but my memory sucks and I can never remember to find a certain menu or turn on a certain function. At the least, you should put tabs in your manual so you can quickly reference something if you need to. Put the manual in the bottom of your bag, and just pull it out when you need it. It’s just an extra safety net for those “Doh” moments in photography. You’re paying, often, thousands of dollars for this piece of technology, you might as well learn how to use it to the fullest!

I hope this will get you started in putting together your photography kit. Oh and did I mention that these items make a great stocking stuffer!



Photo by Qinn

Now that I’ve settled into my co-op job for the next four months, I can finally focus on my photography and my new website. I’d like to officially welcome you to this site, and thank you for stopping by.

I’m not going to do a photo-blog, or a daily diary of my life (you can follow me on Twitter for that), what I hope to do, is use this blog as a medium to share ideas. I want be able to facilitate a conversation and develop a community that is friendly and helpful. My hope is to share the tips and tricks that I’ve learned over the years, and to learn from all of you. This is for all levels of photographers, whether you just got your first camera, or have been shooting for years, I hope I can give you something to take away.

There are an endless number of techniques when it comes to photography, each of us develop our own styles and techniques that we use in our shooting to post. To use a flash or not? If we do, how many, and where do we put them? Post processing, how much is too much? Is there a need for post processing? Do you shoot RAW or JPEG or both? How do you compose your photo, do you shoot with a telephoto or a wide angle lens, fast shutter or long exposure? The combination of possibilities is endless. You don’t just take pictures, you create them.


Blog Inauguration Post

This will be, most likely, the new home of my blog and the home of the photography website. I'm liking the customization, simplicity and control I get from this service. I've still got a couple of exams to prep for so I'll keep this first post short.

Earlier in the year, I was watching a podcast from Revision3, when I saw an advertisement for Squarespace. At the time I didn't give it much thought, I was thinking "here's just anotheradvertisementfor a service I'll never use because I don't have a need for it". A few months passed, and I began to see Squarespace ads on almost all of the podcasts I watch, and it finally struck me, if people like Kevin Rose, Leo Laporte, Alex Lindsay, John C. Dvorak and others are raving about this service, I need to at least give the two week free trial a try.

So on a Wednesday evening I decided to sign up for Squarespace and see what all this hype is about. WOW was I amazed at the service. With in an hour or two I was able to build my entire website from scratch. I didn't have an old blog I wanted to import so I couldn't try that out, but I was up and running faster than any other service I've tried. I was able to customize every aspect of the site to make it my own and to the specs I wanted. Best thing of all, I didn't have to do hardly any hand coding. I'm no code monkey, I haven't touched HTML in years, and Squarespace didn't need me to code anything!

The only caveat for this service is the price tag. It might not be the cheapest service in the world, but it does provide you with a slew of great features. So for all of you who want to make your own website and want some great customization without having to do a bunch of coding, check out Squarespace.

I'd love to get your comments and thoughts about my site. Like it, hate it, I want to know. What should change? What needs to be added? Is it too simple? Broken links? Keep in mind I won't be adding any of my content under my Portfolio page until I'm done my exams. Anything you have to say would be well appreciated. 

ps. thanks to Jack for helping me when I did need to do a lil' bit of coding.


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