13 May 2011

Yongnuo Flashes and the New YN565EX TTL

If you are unfamiliar with Yongnuo Flashes and Photographic equipment, they are a manufacturer of less expensive alternatives to some of your higher name brands like Nikon and Canon. I sometimes look for alternative when I don’t have the funds to purchase the top end equipment, which is often. I was turned on to Yongnuo when doing an interview with David McCourt, photographer and the creator of Slow Photography. He always looks for less expensive alternatives to create his photographic work. Though on a budget, David always seems to photograph beautiful work. So, sometimes you can get the results you want on the cheap. It’s just a matter of knowing your equipment and how to get the most out of it.


Most of the reviews I have read about Yongnuo, have been relatively positive. Except for a couple of people who have had a problem with some equipment they received, it seems most that had the faulty piece of equipment had it replaced with satisfaction. Many say that the build quality is not quite that of say name brand Canon or Nikon, but still worth the cost. Mainly, because the savings are so great. If you are looking to build a strobe setup, you can do it relatively cheap getting two strobes with wireless transmitters for the cost of one Canon 580ex II.  


They will be releasing a new flash, according to the people at Yong Nuo Photographic, sometime in July 2011. (***FINALLY RELEASED - SEE LINK AT BOTTOM) Most reports I have seen have been May, but in a recent correspondence with the company in China, they said around July. The YN565EX TTL flash is probably the closest thing to a Canon 580EX II. It has a plug in for external power and a pc cord and an LED display similar to the 580EX. It is also supposed to work with the 7D’s built in flash control. I think this will be the first brand outside of Canon to do this. I hear the build quality is decent, but I don’t think it will still be to the level of the Canon’s. However, the cost for what is speculating will be somewhere between $150-$250. I know that is quite the range but compared to the 580ex’s price tag of $460, it’s a bargain. You can find many of their products on amazon by doing a search for Yongnuo. Even so, go to the Yongnuo website to see all their products, and if you see something you like you can search the net for a seller. 


If you have any experience with the Yongnuo product line, please leave a comment on your experience. I may be getting one of their flashes to see for myself how these stack up. So you may see an extended or separate blog on this. 

**Update: Added a post about the Yongnuo YN560 (a speedlight worth a look) for a decent flash on a budget (about $65).

***UPDATE: 13 Aug 2011 - Yongnuo YN565EX Available for 179.95 at Ebay - Link

10 May 2011

Zeh Bounce hits the UK in the April Edition of Digital Photo Magazine

April 2011
With Digital Photo Magazine's (UK) recent article on How to use your Flash, I am happy to see the popularity of the Zeh Bounce grow. They cover some different techniques, and they feature the Zeh Bounce in their section about using a bounce for lighting. It has also had a surge in places like Europe, especially Norway, which I guess does well due to many people living in smaller spaces. I am guessing more what in America would be considered apartment or condo style living accommodations. In smaller spaces such as an apartment or a house, this can be an ideal piece of lighting equipment.
"How to use Flash" article with Zeh Bounce. (Click image to read.)

 Why to use something like a Zeh Flash Bounce? Some of the best lighting I can get is with the camera's pop up flash. Not to say this is any sort of replacement for a studio strobe kit and gobos and such. However, where this comes into a great situation is in smaller environments. The Zeh Bounce is well geared to being used for things like family shots at family gatherings, or hanging out with friends on the weekend. This is where I found the bounce was great to have.  

Click to see larger image
When hanging with friends I like to bring my camera, but I am not always wanting to carry a ton of gear. I usually grab one lens,  my camera body and that's it. I will grab and slip the bounce into my back pocket, and I am off.  When I get to a friend's house,  I can easily shoot really nice lit images. I was at a small party with some friends down from Seattle, that had brought their daughter with them. She is so adorable I had to get shots of her. And as children do, she was running around and wondering the house, and I would occasionally grab a shot of her.  These shots in the hallway were completely lit with my pop-up flash and a Zeh bounce. The hallway was dark with all the lights off,  but my flash filled the area. The flash lighting cast all around her, giving a nice even lighting.  Now if I shot her with direct flash she would have been blown out. The great thing is these images are as they were shot, no post production work, such a exposure adjustments or color enhancing. They are as they came out of the camera.
all images©A. Zeh 2011 
I also find I like the image quality much better when the subject is surrounded by the light rather than direct lighting due to the more natural feel.  There is always a place for directly lighting your subject when you want to shape your subject or add a special drama, but sometimes you want a nice even lighting, and the bounce can achieve this. As with everything though, your environment will dictate what you need to light your subject matter with. However, if I know I am headed to someone's house to hang, I know in most indoor conditions, I can use my bounce to get a great shot. Unless they live in a mansion with 20 ft ceilings (but then I will try bouncing the light off a wall rather than a ceiling).    

Now if you are in a pinch you don't have a Zeh Bounce, you can grab a paper plate or a piece of paper to achieve the same effect. However, the reason to have the bounce was to have both hands free to control the camera quickly. Rather than holding a piece of paper in front of the flash, hoping I am directing the light ok while still adjusting the camera for the final shot. When you see a shot and only have a moment take it, the attached bounce makes for a quick photo. You have much less time involved in composing those candid shots.

Digital Photo Article (Click image to read)
So for a quick and inexpensive lighting solution, which allows you to forgo the extra pound of external flash, or if you just don't have $200-$500 to drop on an external flash, this might be a nice solution.  The Zeh Bounce, for $10 is a cheap solution. I have also tried translucent diffusers for the pop-up flash, but the seem to still let too much light through and give a bit of harsh light, which doesn't have a natural feel. They definitely have a place but bounce light has some of the most natural feel. So if you are shooting indoors in an environment like a home, think about bouncing your light. The Zeh Bounce available for Canon, Nikon and Sony. Also if you have never checked out the UK's Digital Photo Magazine, it's on of my favorite Photo magazines with great How to's for photography and Photoshop, and gear reviews. You can often find it a Barnes and Noble or save $3 and find it at your local Costco.

08 May 2011

Should you convert your Camera to Infrared?

Infrared images are stunning but is it worth the cost?

Should you convert your Camera to Infrared? Are you willing to give up a camera only to shoot infrared with? This is the question I asked myself. For me the answer came a little easier than most who ask this question.  I have in the past purchased novelty lenses and other things that I thought were cool and fun. Now I have a shelf of these things collecting dust because that novelty wore off. Unfortunately, it wore off fast and the money spent, feels rather wasted. I now (try to) take a long look at the purchases I make, which could be considered a novelty item. I am a person who really doesn’t like to half ass things. So if I have an idea, I try to follow through not cheating it, for the authenticity sake. Like you can make infrared looking images in Photoshop; however, for me that’s not good enough. Not to say it isn’t for someone else. I just want to go the distance when I create an image I am looking for. This may be the process oriented sculpture back ground I come from. However, as a person who does HDR photography, I like the process. However, now they make it so easy, and you can get that HDR look with a simple filter. I don’t think they look as good as an image with 7, 5 or just 3 exposures, but for many it works.

Anyway what are the advantages to converting to infrared? Basically, I liked the idea I could shoot at 1/200 of a second, rather than a long exposure if I wanted to shoot infrared at a wedding. I will say having people to hold still for a long time sucks. However, I don’t do wedding photography. So I guess that really doesn’t apply. I do like however, to take photos without a tripod. I do like to see what I am shooting through the viewfinder and these are things you can’t do easily if you are shooting with an infrared filter on your camera’s lens.  However, to convert a $1000 camera and spend another $350 to convert that camera to only infrared, is a tall order. Like I said for me the answer was a bit easier. I would have liked to convert my 20D rather than my 40D (which I wanted to use as a backup), but somehow, I got a little speck of dust under my UV Filter on my sensor. How this happened, I have no idea. Nevertheless, after a cleaning from Canon, which I really didn’t need, as I knew where the dust speck was. They finally gave me a quote of $650 to fix the dust problem. So I called around getting quotes to fix, and I found if I converted the camera to infrared, they would clean it out anyway. Like I said, it was easier for me.

 How often do I shoot infrared though? Well, most of my professional work never would use infrared. Even so, I like to be in the outdoors. So when I go camping or hiking, I always try to take this camera with me. I generally carry two bodies. The down side is that I live in Arizona. The best images I get are on cloud covered days with lots of green like trees, not something very abundant in Arizona. In Arizona, we have sunny cloudless skies and very little to reflect the infrared like large green trees. It’s a giant dust bowl and what green there is, would be in the way of a vast golf course, which don’t’ interest me. Or, cacti which after 18 years of cactus, I personally am sick of them. So where you are located, infrared may be ideal and maybe not.  This is something to take note of. Also if you have too much cloud cover, you will lose the quality of your infrared, which means your intensity will be lost. You need the perfect clouds. There are places that this would be perfect, but you have to have the right combination. All things to consider before that purchase of a conversion. You have to ask, will this be a common style for you or a fad?

Where to get your conversion? Well, after you finally decide if it’s worth the cost, then you need to shop. Well, I know most people go to Life Pixel, and I haven’t really heard anything bad about them. I chose LeZot Camera repair out of Vermont. I love the Maple syrup from Vermont. Ok that wasn’t why I chose them. It was how helpful they were when I was talking to them. They weren’t even trying to sell me the conversion. I was actually seeing if they could do the original repair, which would have only cost $250. That was much better than the $650 at Canon. I had been thinking about doing a conversion for some time and since it was necessary to fix my 40D, I figured it was better to just spend $100 more and get the conversion. The best part for me is, I really enjoy doing the infrared. I have always liked black and white photography, and it brings me very close to that with an extra kick I like. So for me, I am finding it not so much a novelty.  (Review of LeZot)

Be prepared, you will have to learn how to convert your images as they don’t come out of the camera, like you see them pictured. The images come out usually red, and you have to spend time processing them. You could shoot in black and white mode, but then you lose some of the great quality of an infrared. So if you don’t like all the Photoshop work, you may be better off with that quick Photoshop filter, like doing the “HDR” look. This technique is for process oriented photographers. I guess that’s why I like infrared. It’s not for everyone. Unless you have patience, it might not be for you. 

06 May 2011

Food Photography with Penny De Los Santo - Another Free Webinar

Ok, I always seem to get this out as it happens. I thought this week I would post it early, so people who would like to see a free weekend Seminar on food photography can catch it. I am a big fan of Photographer Chase Jarvis and his brain child CreativeLIVE. They have Free weekend webinars,  where you can learn so much from industry pros. I have learned so much on different topics which I have had an interest in and have never explored. Furthermore, as a self taught photographer you can miss effects along the way, and these Webinars have filled in the gaps for me. All of these webinars are free. You can purchase the weekend webinar which allows you to download the full three days so you can review it repeatedly.  I have purchased two myself as I wanted to get the full three days, but couldn't sit through them as I had prior obligations. However, I can pull them up anytime I want. If you do end up purchasing a webinar, do it before the actual one end if you can as it will save you $50.

May 13 begins the latest one Food Photography with Penny De Los Santos. Another Webinar I think would be fascinating. I personally have wanted to do food photography as I and most people have a complete love for food. These webinars, go through the how to, tip and tricks, and what to know when you are doing the photography of food. If you already do some food photography, this may give you other great ideas and perspectives you haven't thought of.

If anything, I think Photographers should make contact with the CreativeLIVE site, so that they can get free educational courses, on things that may interest them. They always have something new and interesting coming up, and if you are like me, a person who loves to learn. This may just be for you.