Impact 22″ Beauty Dish Reflector Kit Review

22" Impact Beauty Dish

As you know from reading this site, Impact makes a number of excellent products that offer quite a bit of bang for your photography buck. The Impact 22″ Beauty Dish Reflector Kit represents a solid value for those that want to engage in portrait photography, but don’t want to pay more for a beauty dish kit than they paid for their portrait lens.

Olga-Impact-Beauty-Dish-With-Grid

1) Initial Thoughts

This is one well-built kit that will satisfy demanding professionals and amateurs alike.

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Look Through Your Window

Look Through Your Window

I’ve always admired landscapes and portraits taken by much more talented photographers than myself. Looking at their work – take landscapes photographed by Nasim – I see a world completely different to my own. I see colorful forests and tall mountains inviting me, tempting me. It’s as if they’re saying – come. We look gorgeous from every angle. Come. We are the very bones of Earth. We have valleys and rivers, there are canyons and caves, meadows and snowy peaks to be found. Whatever the time of day, whatever the season or weather, we look gorgeous from every angle. Much unlike the nature around my home, you know. All I’d need to do is choose the one angle I like most. How wonderful would that be.

I had the honor once of traveling with a British professor on train. He saw me photograph passengers aboard and we engaged in a conversation. Halfway through it, he pulled out his beaten laptop and showed me lots of images from his travels all around the globe. He was no photographer, but the places he’s been to were so mesmerizing, I felt a sudden rush of sadness. Why is Lithuania so boring? I’ve seen portraits of exotic people. I’ve had friends travel and come back with breathtaking images from Thailand, Malaysia and Africa, and they always brought something back with them that made me envy their chance. Portraits of people so different from those around me – deep, true. Living. I’ve seen foggy eyes of old wise men, I’ve seen carefree laughter of youngsters out in the streets of Delhi. I’ve seen French lovers in embrace. Why are French so different from the rest of us? Why a simple market suddenly becomes so interesting, if it’s in Japan or Vietnam? Why are taxis so iconic in New York City and London underground trains so full of street photography opportunities? The answer would seem very simple, of course. It’s because they’re better places than where I am. It’s because they’re more interesting people than those around me. There are no exotic people in here, no foggy-eyed wise men, no French flamboyance and certainly, certainly no beautiful, breathtaking, colossal mountains to behold.

Wrong. So very, very wrong of me to ever say such a thing.

Look Through Your Window

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Winter Photography Tips

Snowy Landscapes (6)

Winter can be a very beautiful time of the year, especially if you live in a region that gets plenty of snow. We all know how children love the snow – there are endless possibilities for having fun and cold weather is usually not enough to stop them from enjoying it. On one hand, winter poses a beautiful time of the year for photography, particularly landscapes and portraits, and can be equally refreshing for wildlife photographers. On the other hand, it creates certain problems that are hard to figure out for beginner photographers, let alone their cameras. In this article, I will give you tips on how to photograph in winter and end up with well exposed, beautiful color images. I will also provide you with suggestions on when to go out to photograph and how to use snow to your advantage.

Snowy Landscapes (6)

1) Plan Your Day

First and foremost, remember – days are much shorter during the winter. Sunrise is late, and sunset is early, so you only have a few hours of potentially beautiful light to capture those photographs, be it landscapes or portraits. I know from experience how engaging landscape photography can be during winter and those hours just fly by. Plan your day carefully – remember that you will need to revise your location no matter what you choose to photograph, so you’d better get there before the time of the day that you find most suitable. No less important is your safety. I’ve suffered from cold weather myself having stayed still in one place for too long. Bring some hot tea along with you, and some food, even if it’s just a sandwich. Dress warmly – it is better to be hot than cold. Make sure your mobile phone is fully charged – cold eats up those batteries very quickly. The same goes for your camera, bring at least one spare battery and keep it somewhere warm and close to your body.

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Anatomy Of A Winning Ad – “So God Made A Farmer…”

Photo From Dodge Ram Commercial

These words summarized what was arguably the best commercial of the 47th Super Bowl between the Ravens and 49ers. I was not surprised that this Dodge Ram Truck commercial rose to the top of the pack, since I have been a long-time fan of the man whose touching words graced the 2 minute ad – Paul Harvey. The most intriguing aspect of this ad was that it was as low-tech as it gets. No fancy computer graphics. No matinee idols. No pop culture icons. No questionable language. No massive creative ad budget. It was merely the legendary voice of Paul Harvey, who passed away in 2009 at the age of 90, reciting a 35 year old text… and a series of touching photographs. Let’s take a look at the elements of this great ad and understand why it proved to be so appealing to so many – even lifelong inhabitants of big cities whose only experience with farms has been watching them on TV.

Photo From Dodge Ram Commercial
Image Credit – Chrysler Dodge

The Power To Move People – The Messenger

Based on my recent article regarding Looklet’s LookCreator software replacing photographers and models in the clothing catalog arena, some of you may have thought that I was ceding the world of photography to high end computer graphics. Nothing could be further from the truth. I still believe that a photograph can have profound impacts and change people’s minds and hearts, and in some cases, their wallets as well.

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Ryan Brenizer Talks About His Panorama Method

Brenizer method panorama

A while ago, I posted an article explaining the Brenizer method panorama. Ryan Brenizer is a NYC based wedding photographer and the “father” of Bokeh Panorama, or Brenizer panorama, technique, which allows one to achieve an otherwise impossibly shallow depth of field at a given angle of view. While I did my best to explain how it all works, it’s often better to see how one does it once than read about it ten times. And who to better do it that Ryan himself?

So here are a couple more tips for those of you interested in learning this technique, followed by Ryan’s much more understandable and professional explanation.

Brenizer method panorama

1) Remember Composition and Light

While Brenizer method panorama can help even the most simple and dull photograph look amazing, any eagle-eyed photographer will be able to tell you’re just trying to fool people by using simple aesthetics, such as bokeh, which has nothing to do with your skills as a photographer, only the lens you’re using. Light, Subject and Composition are the main aspects of an image, even when it’s 9463-ish pixels wide and has the most beautiful background blur you’ve ever seen. Work on it – find the best light, the best pose or lack of one, and work on your composition skills – Brenizer method is there to improve your photography and give you more creative choice, but that’s all it can do. The rest is, once again, up to the living, breathing creature holding the camera with a lens set wide open.
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Advanced Photography Technique: Brenizer Method Panorama

Brenizer Method Panorama Fragment

A while ago, I posted an article asking for your feedback. We were all very thrilled to see so many of you comment (even though I didn’t get to answer all of the comments, we already have a list of things we will be working very hard on during the coming months). One suggestion, made by Marcin (thank you!), was of particular interest to me. “What inspires us?”, he asked. Let me rephrase that – who inspires us?

Learning something new is vital for any aspiring photographer, not to mention how interesting it can often be. But then there is a question – whom to learn from? There are a lot of photography forums and blogs around, both with good and not-so-good content, and it can take quite some time for one to differentiate them accordingly. Luckily, just when I was starting my wedding photography business about two years ago, I came across Ryan Brenizer’s blog, and from him I learned one of the best techniques I’ve seen around – the Brenizer method panorama.

Panoramas have been around since film days, and there were actually cameras specifically designed to take such images by using a longer portion of film than conventional 35mm or medium format cameras. Today, most point-and-shoot cameras, as well as some mirrorless and DSLR cameras, are capable of taking panorama images automatically, and, frankly, the result can often be spectacular. So what is so special about this so-called Brenizer method panorama? Well, take a look at the following image.

Brenizer Method Panorama

I took this photograph using my Nikon D700 camera and a 20mm lens set at f/0.5, and gave the full 80 megapixel image to my clients in case they wanted to print large, for those of you curious enough to ask. It was a very fine day and an amazing wedding. No one truly cared about the oncoming rain, least of all the gorgeous bride with her makeup and hairdo. As I was…

Hold on. A 20mm f/0.5 lens? This can’t be right… Can it?

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Nikon 50mm f/1.8G vs f/1.4G

Nikon AF-S 50mm f/1.8G

Ever since I published my Nikon 50mm f/1.8G review, where I showed that the lens outperforms pretty much any other Nikon 50mm lens, including the more expensive Nikon 50mm f/1.4G, I have been getting a lot of questions from our readers. Some wonder if perhaps I made errors in my assessment of the lens – it seems hard to believe that a cheaper lens would outperform its bigger brother. Others wonder if the 50mm f/1.8G truly is that good, why Lola and I continue to use the 50mm f/1.4G lens for our work (it is also listed in the outdated “Our Gear” page).

Nikon AF-S 50mm f/1.8G

After many years of dedicated service, the Nikon 50mm f/1.4G finally went kaput on us (it has all kinds of focus issues, probably as a result of field abuse, so it is on its way to Nikon for repair). I had no intention of selling the older 50mm f/1.4G, because it shows a lot of wear and tear and I knew I wouldn’t get much for it anyway. Since Lola cannot live without her favorite 50mm lens, as soon as this one died, I knew that I would be getting the 50mm f/1.8G version.

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Why Film?

Why Film Photo-9

Let me start by saying that I’m a digital camera junkie. I love technology. I love everything about working with digital images… the number of images that can fit on a tiny memory card, the sharpness and amount of detail that can be captured with good bodies and lenses, the instant gratification that comes from looking at an LCD screen and the amount of flexibility available while editing. Why, then, would I ever want to shoot film instead of digital?

First off, this is not a film vs. digital debate. Some people like shooting film, others prefer digital. Each has its own unique benefits. Each also has a downside. I’m not trying to defend either medium of photography. I think everyone should shoot with whatever makes them happy. Instead, I want to tell you why I started shooting film last year and why I’m still shooting it today.

About a year ago I was browsing the stalls of an antique shop and came across a Yashica-D twin lens reflex (TLR) camera. For some reason I felt compelled to buy it and shoot a few rolls of film. Having never used a TLR before, the first time I opened the lens shade and looked inside I was mesmerized by what I saw. I became infatuated with peering down through the ground glass viewfinder at the reversed image of what was in front of me. While I metered for my exposure and slowly focused and composed each shot, I found myself really paying attention to my composition and waiting for the perfect moment to trip the shutter. After all, I only have 12 shots per roll of 120 film. Each shot has to count!

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Are you ready to be “Packed”?

Pack a Photographer

A friend of mine sent me a video from the WSJ called “Don’t Forget to Pack a Photographer” (link to the video, link to the article). Seems like there is a new trend in higher-end markets, where people are hiring professional photographers to photograph their vacations. It is certainly an interesting concept that could create potentially good business for us photographers (if priced right and done right).

Pack a Photographer (Photo by Helene Havard)

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Maximizing Dynamic Range

Doris-Final

The more time I spend in my photography pursuits, the more I appreciate cameras that capture and photos that exploit their maximum dynamic range potential. Digital cameras have undergone dramatic improvements over the last 12+ years, but they still don’t come close to the human eye’s dynamic range capabilities. By some estimates, the human eye can distinguish up to 24 f-stops of dynamic range. Higher end DSLRs such as the Nikon D800 by comparison, can capture up to a theoretical max of 14.4 f-stops of dynamic range. The usable dynamic range of most DSLRs, however, is closer to 5-9 f-stops, considering the impact of noise, which can render some of the DSLRs’ f-stop range impractical to exploit. Thus your eyes – at least for now – are still far more capable than the best DSLR relative to recognizing various tonal gradations. As I will demonstrate via my new model, “Doris” (shown below) of the Pittsburgh Zoo, even photos taken with high quality DSLRs sometimes need a bit of extra processing to match what your eyes can see. The photo below is the result of a processing technique I often employ to boost dynamic range when it is apparent that my camera’s sensor failed to capture what I remember seeing.

Doris-Final

1) Good Dynamic Range Starts With A Good Camera

The first step in maximizing dynamic range is to have a camera that scores high in this category. DXO Mark can provide a good understanding of how DSLRs stack up against each other in this regard. The results from the D800 dynamic range testing have been amazing, clearly showing that it has the capacity to pull significant shadow detail while still keeping noise levels relatively low. If and when I actually get my hands on a D800, I will be able to determine this for myself! For this tutorial, I used my trusty Nikon D7000, which despite its modest price, has a very good dynamic range score.

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