May 18 Photography Update

About two months ago, I found myself hitting a brick wall with my creativity. Not just photography in general, but with website design, programming, and life in general. I found myself not producing anything that I considered “up to par”. Thus, my camera found a home, case gathering dust, in my closet, wasting its life away.

A week or two ago, after reading a very helpful blog post by Lisa Bettany (I LOVE her photography; check her website out), I managed to get back into the swing of things; I think it had a lot to do with reading Lisa’s blog, particularly because a while ago she went through a similar issue, where she felt that none of the photos she took were any good (the different being she’s a professional and I’m not :P). I got the opportunity to photograph some of my late grandfather’s World War II medals, which let me put some of my practical skills to the test. I made myself a back-lit softbox with a flash behind the medal and a shoot-through umbrella above. Doing some minor post-shot colour tweaks, I got some great looking shots which, I think, do the medals justice.

This past weekend, I got the opportunity to have take some photos of a get-together with a couple high school friends, and the camera came out again. Although a number of my photos didn’t turn out, I was very happy with the results of some others.

Finally on Sunday, I went through my back yard and the back lane, taking photos of the trees in bloom and an old truck in a neighbour’s back yard. Although the photos I had originally intended on taking didn’t turn out nearly as well as I had hoped, other ones worked out nicely.

So, in attempt to get back into the photography (and blogging!) groove, I’ve decided to put up another 45 photos from the past weeks. As always, your comments and constructive criticisms are welcome and encouraged.

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January 18 Photography Update

The latest batch of photos is in. This time, all are from this past week’s Legion, where we got a great turnout. I was able to try out using my flash in slave mode, where it gets controller by a 580EX II which is mounted on my camera. Overall, I think I got some great shots this week, including one or two I’m considering getting prints made of (such as #11, the one of Sylvia & Kiral).

I also did a bit of shooting last night in my room with my macro lens of a plant I have. I love some of the colors that came out of the shots, and I included two at the end of the gallery.

Hope you enjoy, and feel free as always to comment below.

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January 16 2010 Photography Update

Over the past week, UMSwing has had a recruitment table up in an attempt to get new members interested in the club. During that time, we do a lot of dancing (a couple hours a day), hoping that some people will be impressed by it. We think it’s working, but we’ll have to wait until the open house to see.

As always, I welcome your comments. Add a comment below!

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An Exploration Into Using An Off-Camera Flash

Cactus V2 Flashes Triggers
My Cactus V2 Flash Triggers

Recently, I bought a set of Cactus V2 remote flash triggers off of a friend for my camera. These allow me to use a flash off-camera, which can give me a number of different lighting effects based upon position and intensity. I’ve been trying them out a lot so I can get a grasp on how to use them, and it’s been an interesting experience. Below I’ve got a few sample photos, as well as some of my learning experiences.

The first photo I ever took with an off-camera flash was of my living room. Needless to say, my first shot was not impressive. It wasn’t even good. Hell, it’s barely worth posting, but it was a step forward. I was learning, and also testing the triggers to make sure they actually worked. If nothing else, I was really interesting at this point with some of the potential effects that I’d be able to do with it.

The First Shot
My first off-camera flash shot. Hardly anything good.

As with anything, practice makes perfect, and despite the rather bland first photo, I stuck with it, trying a number of different effects. I looked around my house for things to photograph that might make for some interesting photos, particularly with some different lighting. An improvement came when I took a photo of a decorative house and Christmas scene that my mom had set up on an antique radio. A bunch of random adjustments and a dozen-or-so photos later, I came up with something that looked decent. Again, definitely not a masterpiece, but a step forward in the right direction.

The Christmas House
A small Christmas scene that was set up in our living room.

Eager to try out my new toy at a swing lesson, I decided to try my hand at photographing moving targets. Looking back at the photos, very few of them turned out well at all. Some turned out okay, and two of them are below. A few turned out well, and ended up in this week’s gallery entry, which I hope you’ll check out. I think jumping into the deep end was a little too hard for me; there were far too many variables to juggle, including the flash position, flash power, camera focus and zoom settings, and the position and orientation of the people I was photographing. It was simply too much to handle all in one shot when I’m still learning the basics when it comes to the lighting, and I’m still learning things about my camera. In retrospect, I should have waited a while before bringing them along.

Tiffany at the swing lesson. I think the lighting is much too hard in this.
Tiffany and Keith
This I'm a little happier with. It turned out better, and the light isn't as harsh.

But, some of my stuff did turn out well, and they’re in this week’s gallery. Some of those are shot with an off-camera flash; others are not. As far as cost-worth purchases go for aspiring photographers, these flash triggers are the best purchase I’ve made (just surpassing the 50mm EF 1.8/f lens). If you have an external flash, pick yourself up a set of these and a cheap camera tripod; you won’t regret it.

If you’d care to see some of my better photos (ie. this week’s gallery), you can take a look at the Jan. 8/10 gallery here.

Upcoming Swing Events

For this Monday’s blog post, I’d like to stray a little from my typical technology discussions and focus on something far from that: dance. Not just any kind of dance, though. I’d like to quickly discuss swing dancing.

This might seem like an odd topic for a geek to discuss. After all, I’m supposed to be glued to my computer, make obtuse references to nerdy shows and movies, and have a natural inability to talk to women. While all of the above may or may not be true (heh), I also found myself two years ago to have an interest in swing dancing, thanks to a friend who convinced me to go to the University of Manitoba Swing Dance Club (UMSwing) open house (thanks Jacklynn!). Although initially I didn’t think I would enjoy it that much, I found myself addicted by the end of that open house, and walked out that night with a full membership. I’m still shocked that I’m even capable of dancing, but regardless, it’s a great way to get some exercise, meet new people, and get out of the house.

Two years later, and I’m on the executive committee for UMSwing as their omnipotent web administrator. I’ve met a lot of great people through the club, and by being on the executive committee, I can hopefully give back to a club which has helped me a lot. One of the events that is happening in just over a week is this semester’s open house, which I will be MCing. The club puts on one open house per semester, usually within the first few weeks. We pride ourselves on being able to teach anybody to dance, regardless of skill level. You don’t need to bring a partner to dance with, and you don’t need experience. We do some demos, teach you basic Jive, and do some social dancing. Oh yeah, and there’s a bunch of prizes that we will give away.

So, if you have nothing to do that night, come out and enjoy yourself.

UMSwing’s classes tend to be geared towards beginner swing dance. If you happen to have swing experience, HepCat Studio is a swing studio that is starting up today at 6:00pm. The first class today is free, and they will teach both beginner and intermediate swing dancing. You can find their website over at

So, I will continue with random technological rants and whatnot next Friday. Methinks that my next post will probably discuss my upcoming server build and the parts involved. Although I had posted on it a while back, I’ve solidified my decisions for the next server incarnation. It will be awesome. Very, very awesome.