Snakes

Last week I had the awesome opportunity to take photos of some cool animals: snakes. With an expert nearby, I could capture nice close-ups of some constrictor and venomous snakes. Below a brown-spotted green pit viper, a monocled cobra, a green tree python (still young and thus orange) and an emerald tree boa.

brownspottedgreenpitviper

monocledcobra
greentreepython
emeraldtreeboa


Photos 2015

2015
My year 2015 in some photos (random order);

  1. Fallow deer, Amsterdamse Waterleidingduinen
  2. Zeelandbrug
  3. Dijver canal, Bruges, Belgium
  4. Lighthouse at Rhodos Harbor, Greece
  5. Superbloodmoon
  6. Autumn
  7. Nienke, bouldering
  8. Baby giraffe, Artis, Amsterdam
  9. Sunset, Pier Ijmuiden
  10. Giant Tree Frogs, Artis, Amsterdam
  11. Clouds above Amsterdam
  12. Sandra
  1. Anthony Quinn Bay, Rhodos, Greece
  2. Wooden Mannequin Model
  3. Fox, Amsterdamse Waterleidingduinen
  4. De Omval, Amsterdam
  5. Ruddy turnstone
  6. Sunset over Ouderkerkerplas
  7. ‘Run Beyond’, Amsterdam Light Festival
  8. Puck
  9. Citer, Hoofddorp
  10. Texel lighthouse
  11. The Passerelle, Luxembourg
  12. Selfportrait




Levitation

Lime levitationTogether with a colleague and fellow-photographer, we thought of some assignments that should trigger us to try new things in photography and see if it could improve our photo skills. One of the challenges was to capture ‘levitation’. And instead of throwing an object up in the air and trying to perfectly time the photo, I preferred a more technical approach that should allow me to have a bit more control over the situation. With a lime as subject.

I started with a cutting board on the kitchen countertop, with the lime on top of it (still in one piece at that moment). This allowed me to arrange and test my setup first, before taking the final shots. I positioned my camera with the help of a tripod, which was crucial since I wanted to take 2 photos from an identical point of view to be able to create the levitation in post-processing.
Next, I placed 2 light stands on each side of the camera, each with a white shoot-trough umbrella and a speedlight (see the behind the scenes photo below). Both were positioned at a 45 degree angle to the side, 45 degree angle up high towards the lime. Since I wanted a narrow depth of field to create a blurred background (f/4.5) and max sync speed for full light control (1/200), the speedlights were set at 1/32 (camera left) and 1/16 (camera right) power to get the right amount of light. The power difference between the speedlights would cast a small shadow just below the lime on one side, to emphasize the levitation. I could have added some shadow in post-processing, but I preferred an in-camera version. With some kitchen attributes in the background, I was ready to bring my subject in the correct position.

I placed a boom arm above the cutting board. To lift the lime I pierced it with a wooden skewer, attached to a clothespin and hang it to the boom arm with a piece of yarn. To add in more levitation effect, I sliced the lime in 5 pieces.
For the final result I took 2 photos; one with the lime, and one without (Note: it could have been a single photo in this situation, since the background allowed it to simply clone out the skewer. With a more complex background the 2 photo strategy is more practical.). After small improvements in color, light and contrast, I loaded both photos into Photoshop and removed all pieces of skewer in the first photo, revealing the perfect background from the second photo underneath. The end result is a sliced, levitating lime.

Making of Lime levitation
A photo from the other side of the countertop, revealing the light setup and construction used to position the lime.



Making of “Jumping spider”

Jumping spider

This little fellow is only 4 mm tall. But despite their size, jumping spiders are quite photogenic with their big eyes and little hairs. You only need to make sure you are able to capture these details. So when I found one in house, luring to catch some flies near an open window, I just had to give it a shot. With a little shot glass and a piece of cardboard I temporarily caught the spider, allowing me to collect the gear required to take a photo.

Between my camera and 50mm prime lens, I installed 3 extension tubes (65mm in total). This allows me to get my lens really close to my subject and get a 1.45:1 magnification. Which means that the spider would appear bigger on the sensor of my camera than he actually is in real life. Downside of these extension tubes is that you will have to work with a real narrow depth of field and they will also cost me quite some light, so the use of a flash is necessary in most of the cases. But they are relative cheap compared to a real decent macro lens.

The shot glass in which I was holding the spider provided a nice background to take the photo. When removing the cardboard, the spider would crawl up to the edge to escape, making it possible for me to predict his path and get him aligned in my narrow depth of field. Using a light stand with boom arm, I placed my speedlight close to the glass and used a softbox to diffuse the light and prevent hard shadows. And with the camera right above the glass it was a matter of framing and timing the shots.

EXIF details: 1/200, f/8.0, ISO100, speedlight at 1/8 power.
Dislcaimer: no spiders were hurt or hold captive longer than needed when taking this picture.



Making of “Blog update”

Blog update

A little while ago I made this photo of Sandra. She was working on her MacBook Air, updating her blog. And as she sat there, I saw an opportunity to create my own version of a photo that photographer and strobist David Hobby once made. Perhaps not the most original thing to do, but for me it was a great way to learn to work with gels on my speedlights which I hadn’t done before.

lightscheme

I had my camera placed on a tripod with my 24mm lens (YAY primes!) and the white balance set to tungsten. This way, the camera would compensate for too much yellow light in a photo by adding in blue (as the camera would have when you are using incandescent light bulbs as a light source). Except, in this situation the available light wasn’t too yellow so the photo would get an overall blue glow.

In manual mode, I dialed up 1/200th of a second for shutter speed as this is my max flash sync speed. I placed one speedlight with a snoot attached on camera left (no gel), aimed at the logo of her notebook. The snoot prevented unwanted spread of my flashlight so that I would only get a small highlight on the back of the MBA.
A second speedlight with a 1/4 CTO gel was placed on the keyboard of the MBA, aimed at the screen so that the light would reflect back on Sandra her face. Due to the gel the speedlight would cast an orange glow on her face. With the tungsten white balance set this would result in a normal looking light compared to the rest of the photo.
On the right, I made a little schematic overview of the positioning of the two speedlights compared to camera and subject.

All that remained was finding the right balance between the two speedlights and the ambient light. The ratio between the speedlights was eventually 2:1, with the one on camera left at the highest power. I don’t know the exact settings anymore, since this info isn’t saved in the EXIF details of a photo. But my guess would be that the speedlights were at 1/4 and 1/8 power. I opened up my aperture to f/2.8 to let the ambient light in as my third light source.

Below you see the photo that came straight out of camera. As you can see the biggest effect has already been made in-camera, something that could have been quite a challenge to achieve in post-processing. I removed all distractions in the background and some reflections on the table and in the drinking glass. I optimized the color balance to enhance the effect of the gelled speedlight, restored some shadows and highlights and applied some brightness, sharpness and contrast improvements. The final version is shown at the top of this post. If you like to see a direct comparison between both versions, you can find this photo as one of the examples at Before & After.

Blog update
For more info or any questions, find me on Twitter or Flickr.