Thursday, December 19, 2013

Zu Studieren...

Let's see. A week that started with a semi-disaster, after the escape of the maid from the house. Now, we (or me) have to do much of the house work as much as possible to keep Mom rested as much as possible. It is hard as it is WITH the presence of a maid, as Mom tries to keep active and simply denies her ailments.
On the other hand, I've done all the paperwork and payments to get the new car. I think I will take a shot for it and maybe even a panorama from the inside. It's too early for this talk anyway!
Because of this busy schedule either in daytime or after working hours I didn't even have much time to do anything with my camera except for a simple study and a simple shot. Even that simple shot is not worthy (so far) for publishing, specially after discovering that my leg is in the image by mistake!! (common mistake in fisheye shots!).

Comparison and Study
As I've mentioned last week that I've done some experiment to check and make an idea of the effects of some light modifiers after receiving my new shipment of Impact Syl Arena Strobros On-Camera Flash Light-Modifier Kit.

Source: B&H
Initially, I've done the test with my 580EXII Speedlite against my green wall. After checking the results of such test, I've decided to do the test again, and this time against my wooden door because it has a clear texture and it is better to judge the effect that way. I've also added the RoundFlash modifier to the list for a general comparison. But first, I'll post an original image with plain 580EXII in use. It's worthy to mention that the distance from the front of the lens to the door was kept at around 1 meter (~3.3ft) and f/8. The shutter speed and the power of the speedlite were subjects to change to adjust the level of the light. To ensure a neutral white balance with natural colors as much as possible I've used the Vello Universal White Balance Handheld Disc and shot with the speedlite naturally and used that image in Custom WB settings. In the following set of images, it would be better to click and enlarge the picture to have a better view.

Plain 580EXII
Canon EF 50mm, f/8, 320-1sec, ISO100.

Notice how the center of the light strike is closer to the top edge with flare and gradually fading in all directions. I don't know though why it is not exactly at the center of the top edge!

RoundFlash shot

Source: B&H
In the RoundFlash shot here, I've used the High-Speed mode for the 580EXII to kill the ambient light and also to decrease the flare on the wood. Strangely, and probably it is a property in the High-Speed mode, the light became more bluish despite fixing the WB by Custom WB settings.
As you can notice, the light accumulated in the center of the shot and gradually spread to the corner, but the graduation is short and blends to darkness like it's vignetting. One of the main problems with the RoundFlash modifier is that the lens should have some length to fit properly in the center. My Canon EF 50mm f/1.4 USM lens was not long enough and initially had problems to fit it in between the strings in the middle of the modifier.
At such level, and 1 meter away from the target, the spotlight of the Speedlite falls almost perfectly in the center (even though in the plain shot it was not!). A good point to consider when shooting portraiture and macro; in fact, RoundFlash was made as a cheap substitution for the expensive ring flash used in typical macro shot. One bad point about it though, it is bulky and I wonder how fit it is for macro shots. You must have some long lenses to keep away from the target (if it was a sensitive one as an insect for example) and to have the lens fit firmly in the center of the modifier. Concentrating the light in the center, and in such amount, would somehow mean harsh shadows for the subject if it was used for portraiture shots I believe.

Beauty Dish, Golden Plate, and Diffuser
Beauty Dish + Golden Plate + Diffuser

Source: B&H
Source: B&H
Then comes the beauty dish, which is a well-known modifier in the fashion world and fashion photography. Technically though, I've never (so far) used it for portraiture or anything else but this test as you can see here. Along with the kit, some specific diffusers and grids to fit the beauty dish are available, thus I've decided to check the effect of the diffuser (the white disc in the image), as the other discs are simply colored diffusers and probably wouldn't help me if it casts a color on the reddish-brown wood. I also didn't check the effect of the grids because their effect is known - simply to concentrate the light into a narrower angle.
Back to the light show now.As it is noticed, the flare of the shot is on the top level above the center and closer to the edge but the size of the flare is relatively small (compared to the RoundFlash and the plain shot). The color of course is changed a bit because of the golden plate inside the beauty dish which made it a bit of greenish hue more than bluish hue. The graduation of the flare is faint (and appears first as if it is cut abruptly). This light attitude makes me think of the usage of the beauty dish; it must be used with some angle even though it is (here with this kit) considered an "on-camera" speedlite modifier. Otherwise, if it was used directly to hit the subject, it would cast a harsh shadow on the spot where it falls. Well, unless a dark background was in use which would hide such shadow maybe!

Beauty Dish, and Golden Plate
Beauty Dish + Golden Plate

I see that when the diffuser is removed there is, virtually, not a big deal of difference in the location of the falling light according to the frame, or to the graduation in the light level. Probably the diffuser provided a greater expansion in the periphery of the falling light, and probably this difference would be more apparent if the power of the light was increased (by the speedlite, by the aperture, or by slowing down the shutter). Could be a subject for further testing.

Beauty Dish, and Silver Plate
Beauty Dish + Silver Plate

Source: B&H
The next plate in the queue was the silver plate to be fixed in the center of the beauty dish. As it's predecessor, the silver plate doesn't seem to change much except for the color of course where it accentuates the blue tint of the speedlite. Usually, with gel filters fitted upon the speedlite, a balance between the ambient light temperature (or color) and the speedlite temperature is sought in that way, and consequently, the white balance is controlled more properly. Here, however, the story is a bit different when using the plates and a speedlite which emits a tinted blue light. Makes me wonder now about the possibilities (and the creative process) of blending gel filters on the speedlite with those colored plates in the beauty dish. The results got to be crazy!

Beauty Dish, and Mirror Plate
Beauty Dish + Mirror Plate

It might appear as completely black frame, but in fact there is a faint light. This result, however, was a complete surprise for me as I was expecting more reflectance from the mirror plate. The mirror plate (which comes in a concave shape) has two sides: polished (convex) and unpolished (concave) surfaces. Other plates don't have polished surface like a mirror. Anyway, according to the settings I've noticed, the concave part must be facing the speedlite. The light here was very faint. I would increase power to make a clear note of how the graduation or feathering of the light goes, but it's enough for me now to see and compare with other settings of other plates. Seems that the mirror plate feathers and scatters the light emitted from the speedlite so much that it only makes a faint tracing of light in the frame. Leaves me with the question: How would that appear in a wide-angle lens?

Bulb Diffuser
Source: B&H
The next modifier is one that I've seen photographers use it a lot, either directly or indirectly. However, the usage of the Bulb Diffuser might be known to many but that didn't keep me still without testing it here. It is a diffuser after all and dedicated for smoothing and feathering the light in a pleasant way. Anyway, because the bulb shape emits lights in all directions almost, and because the typical setting as shown in the guide that the speedlite must be pointed up, I've decided to do my own testing with various tilting angles of the speedlite.

Bulb Diffuser, speedlite pointing up.

On the first trial here with the typical setting: Speedlite pointing up. As it can be seen above, the feathering is nice and smooth going all the way down from the top with little flare on the top edge. Remember that we are using the Canon EF 50mm lens here, meaning that with a little extension in the focal length, more than 50mm, we can be left with the feathering alone without the flare on the top edge of the frame. A good point to memorize I suppose!

Bulb Diffuser, speedlite at 45o.

After trying the typical position, I've tilted the speedlite head down by 45o. This position looks good despite the relatively large flare on the top of the frame (which as I stated above would be avoidable by using a longer focal length). The graduation or feathering is slow making the luminance almost (not completely) homogenous across the frame. Probably this would be a favorite position when doing portraiture (with a little raise in the speedlite level or longer focal length).

Bulb Diffuser, speedlite at 90o.

Finally, we have the 90o position which in fact almost replicates the plain shot of the speedlite without any modifier. Yet, however, in the plain shot above you can notice the black edges like vignetting effect, but here with the bulb diffuser, the edges are also illuminated and almost no vignetting can be found. This makes me think of using the speedlite with other modifiers from Rogue collection which I got before in order to maximize the spread of the light circle and yet give an act as if the speedlite is unmodified originally! Needs a bit more of trial and error.

There are a number of other modifiers along with the kit but I didn't test them because, simply, their effect is known; like the snoot (with grids) and grids for the beauty dish. In addition, a new set of gel filters and a velcro band arrived with the kit but I didn't use them yet, as they are similar to other sets I had already. I need to practice my "speedliting" as much as possible now.

It feels like my life has been monotonous right now. The only way to break out the routine and the duties of the everyday living seems to be paying close attention to details around me in a trial to amuse my brain in things that usually I don't think of. There are books still on the queue but they are not photography or archaeology books, so my progress in digesting these books is slow. I'm praying for some vacation again, but a real one, out of this country. I'm feeling sick of my (unappreciative) work place, as well as of the majority of people around me. Such a dream seems far a bit for now.
Now, I'm waiting for every weekend like a treasure seeker, and hoping that I can do some night photography in each weekend. Is it worthy to try to be unique already?

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