'tutorials' Category

Michael Willems’ Gizmo of the Day

Michael Willems and his nifty blog, SpeedLighter.ca, have posted an interesting article about how to modify a Photoflex DualFlash bracket so it can hold two flashes or a flash and a PocketWizard for use on a light stand.

Michael Willems at SpeedLighter.ca

The modification appears to be quick and simple. Although we haven’t tried it, it seems like a good idea. Nice job, Michael!

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Chris O'Connell Stops Time

Chris O’Connell first appeared on our radar when he set out to accomplish the first 500 shutter speed remotely-synched flash sequence in action sports, complete with HDR morph shot in RAW. This is the story of how he got there.

©Chris O'Connell

Virginia is not the first geographic location you think of when extreme skiing comes to mind. That’s where Chris O’Connell grew up and began talking photos at the age of 12 or 13, when his father gave him his Mamiya Sekor. O’Connell began shooting his friends skateboarding and riding bikes. “A lot of action stuff. I mean, that’s my roots,” he says.

Unaware he could make a living as a full-time photographer, O’Connell went to business school and moved to Colorado after graduation. His first job was at The Vail Daily. He also shot freelance. At that time, the area was the virtual epicenter of the snowboarding world. Ice climbing, rock climbing, and kayaking were not far behind. O’Connell shot them all, and then some.

Time in business school paid off for O’Connell. “I focused on the business end of things a lot. It made magazine editors feel comfortable when I started doing submissions and then I’d write little articles. I would package my slides very professionally. I think that gave me a boost over some of my peers at the time,” he says.

He became Senior Photographer at Snowboarder Magazine in the late 1990s, and began shooting many snowboard and ski events for editorial avenues around the world. “I had a few Senior Photographer gigs for different magazines throughout the world, and the commercial stuff came next,” O’Connell recalls. Corporations like Oakley, Nike, and Burton began hiring him for commercial work. He eventually left Colorado for the Tahoe area in Northern California. A few years later, he made a radical shift to Orange County, “to be away from the mountains but still closer to the action sports hub of the world, Costa Mesa,” he says.

His new home base is also home to many surf and skate companies, as well as snow gear brands and optical companies. Hurley, Billabong, Quiksilver, and Volcom all have headquarters there. “It’s a great place for an action sports shooter and catalogue guy like myself to be based, because I’m right here. A good percentage of my clients are within ten miles of me,” says O’Connell. He also cites his proximity to Samy’s Camera, Los Angeles rental houses, and the five hour drive to the Sierra Nevada mountains as further reasons for his location. Those mountains have “some of the most epic light and consistent weather patterns of any mountains I’ve been in the world,” he says. “Tons of snow, and there’s always a high pressure system behind it. Then we go grey a lot, so there’s really good opportunities to shoot around here as well.”

©Chris O'Connell

Exclusively a digital photorapher, O’Connell relies on digital gear to get it right the first time. “When you have a guy jumping off a 50 foot cliff and it’s super dangerous, you don’t really get two takes. When I get controlled environments, that’s when I can really excel. That’s why the catalog and commercial stuff is so easy for me because I’m so used to only getting one shot at a photo,” he explains.

Last September, inspired by his friend Chase Jarvis shooting in New Zealand, O’Connell got the competitive idea to one-up him. Jarvis shot 20 pops per flash at 250 shutter speed tethered. O’Connell’s mind quickly had gears turning. “I want to be able to do this and shoot it wireless. I can’t really speculate on why he did it tethered. When I started looking into the PocketWizard FlexTT5, I got the idea I could really push this to the next level and shoot RAW files with the wireless sync,” he says. “With action photography, one f-stop is everything, so that’s really what I wanted to do. I started researching it a lot before we shot it, but Chase was the inspiration, for sure.”

O’Connell’s big challenge finally happened on June Mountain in the Eastern Sierras of California, which provided a special jump for the complex morphing shot.

©Chris O'Connell

Pulling off such a technical challenge made O’Connell do a lot of homework, including investigating a multitude of manufacturers who might be able to execute this photographic feat. “I used PocketWizard Plus receivers, because I think they have better range and are a little bit more stable in colder weather than the MultiMAXs and even the Mini,” he says. “They’re my workhorses. If I’m going to be far away from a shot, I still go to those, even though I’m on the transmitting mode. The TT5 allowed me to shoot at 1/500. I’ve never been able to do that with the PocketWizard Plus. That usually maxes right around 1/320. I used the Broncolor, the Scoro A4 and A2S packs. Those packs are really quite incredible. They’re expensive, but the control you have over the flash duration and having a digital readout on the pack was integral in being able to make sure I was shooting it at a fast enough flash duration. When this shoot came down to it, it was all about magic hour. Things have to be functioning right, and I can’t have room for error. It gets cold at night in the snow, and it’s hard to change things around, so I think that was really integral, as was the TT5. I used Honda generators, the EU series. They’re quiet so I can hear when riders are dropping, and they’re just not obnoxious to use on a shoot; they’re clean and quiet.”

The cameras which helped him pull all this together were Canon EOS-1D Mark IV. “I shot Zeiss lenses. I’m sort of a lens geek, and I’m just finding that a lot of the Canon wides don’t do it for me. The 14mm is just pretty sharp all the way across, but when you get a rider or anyone, for that matter, up into the corners in some of the other Canons, they fail. I think the Zeiss are super expensive and they’re heavy. For a guy like me who has to hike around the mountains, your pack starts getting really heavy when you’re throwing a bunch of Zeiss in there, but the crispness of the lens all the way across is truly unmatched. You give up the autofocus, but I can deal with that. I don’t shoot a hell of a lot of autofocus anyway. That was one reason I chose to shoot the Zeiss. I was really happy with the results.”

©Chris O'Connell

O’Connell discovered a tip and would like to share it with our readers. “I see a lot of snow sports photographers all around the world have some misfire trouble. They just set their flash pack on the ground, have the head six feet off the ground, but not the PocketWizard. I set up a separate light stand, ran a long extension cord for my sync and got that thing eight feet off the ground. That dramatically increased my reliability on the syncing. The ground is bad enough as it is for the radio waves, but the water and snow I guess just really throw it off. I never really knew that in years and years of misfires. I always figured because it’s too far away or I was around the corner too much. But it’s really something that could dramatically reduce the amount of misfires is to get that thing. Buy a long extension cord for your sync and get it off the ground. Bring it up eight feet. That does help.”

O’Connell’s next challenge? To stop even smaller increments of time. “Basically this whole process has left me with the desire to learn more and push it more on how fast it could sync and what else I can do,” he says. “If I could shoot a sequence at 1/1,000 sec., I’d be elated. Maybe that’s my next project.”

Chris O’Connell Photography
Chris O’Connell blog
Chris O’Connell on Vimeo

Written by Ron Egatz

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DPE Podcast with Joe Brady

MAC Group’s own Joe Brady was a guest on a recent Digital Photo Experience podcast. Hanging out with hosts Rick Sammon and Juan Pons for the first 14 minutes of the show, Joe explains what PocketWizard technology is all about. This is a great place to get a cursory and fundamental understanding of what PocketWizards do when you release the shutter.

Joe also discusses other topics for the following ten minutes, including color management and guitars.

Digital Photo Experience is a solid source of content, and worth checking regularly if you’re serious about getting better photographic results, regardless of your level of expertise. Sign up for for their podcast, learn, and enjoy!

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Photographing Models, by Mary DuPrie

Every so often you come across a photography product worth getting excited about, and it has nothing to do with corporate hype or industry buzz. Recently, I had the opportunity to interview PocketWizard user Mary DuPrie, of Mary DuPrie Studios. DuPrie also runs the well-written blog Photographing Models. To date, she’s released three instructional DVDs. This article will deal with one, Photographing Models.

In Photographing Models, DuPrie deviates from the norm, and does so in a wildly successful way. Most instructional products aimed at photographers are about lighting and equipment. They usually miss the most critical thing, and that’s the positioning of models. You can have a gorgeous woman posing in front of your lens, with a team of talented makeup artists and wardrobe stylists at the ready, plus all the lighting and camera equipment in the world, but if your subject doesn’t know how to move, the quality of the photos will be predictably disappointing. Crack all the dumb blonde jokes you want about models, but successful ones who keep working know how to move and pose. Good shots are typically not random, happy accidents.

DuPrie stands alone with this DVD. Not only will photographers learn what poses to avoid, but models will be fascinated to see how critical hand placement is, for instance. She demonstrates how to minimize hands, keep them relaxed, and have them add to the mood of a photo, and not, for instance, compete with a face. How many models know hands are such a deal-changer? More importantly, how many photographers know this?

DuPrie uses a monitor on set to explain to the model what poses work and why. ©Mary DuPrie

Over the course of this DVD, DuPrie does everything to physically detail to Sally, a young hopeful model, the problems with almost every standard pose imaginable, including getting on the floor and demonstrating the right way,  versus the drawbacks of the way most models naturally position themselves. Viewers follow along, learning how a head-tilt can hide a bad neck angle, how much to move eyes to avoid too much white area, and how to keep the rear of an upper-arm from bulging out unattractively. This and other critical minutia are not thought of or addressed by many professionals until it becomes time to spend hours in Photoshop fixing them. For any photographer, time is money, and the $80 DuPrie is charging for Photographing Models will be recouped during their first post-viewing shoot. For models, watching this DVD and putting the lessons into practice will mean getting hired repeatedly.

©Mary DuPrie

The other major content area of this DVD is the sets. DuPrie goes into some detail regarding how she creates, stores, and operates a veritable library of backdrops. Unlike many photography studios, DuPrie’s backdrops are solid and freestanding, not hung cloth. Most of her backdrops are styrofoam, and can be positioned and repositioned as needed. For instance, in one segment, she builds a V out of them, positioning her model directly in them. She typically fastens these backdrops with pins and Velcro: easy and non-permanent ways to transform her studio into a wide variety of looks. DuPrie paints each styrofoam panel herself, although this title does not go into the execution of that. It’s a fascinating and atypical way of creating scenes. Although this is a small part of the DVD, it’s incredibly inspiring, and will prompt photographers to consider working with these materials as a viable alternative to the cliched spattered hanging tarps.

DuPrie and a portion of her vast library of rigid backdrops. ©Mary DuPrie

Filmed with three cameras, Photographing Models is a professional production. The audio quality is excellent, and the editing does the subject matter justice. Although geared toward photographers interested in getting the most from their time with hired models, models themselves will benefit from understanding which movements and poses are camera-friendly, and which are not.

Making no claims this instructional DVD contains lighting information or best camera practices, DuPrie has filled a void in recent photography instructional materials. This is, however, everyday knowledge all photographers will benefit from. Instead of shooting with machine gun rapidity and hoping for attractive accidental poses, many hours and dollars will be saved employing the knowledge offered here.

In the future, we will feature our profile of Mary DuPrie, her own photography and techniques, including her use of PocketWizard technology.

©Mary DuPrie

Title: Photographing Models
Running time: approximately 110 minutes
Price: $80
Product and ordering information found here.

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Mark Wallace's final stop on US Meetup Tour – LIVE USTREAM Sat 2/5

We’re sad it’s ending, but Mark’s last Meetup is going to be amazing. Since he could only be in one place at a time, geography kept some people from attending. Guess what? Now all you need is three hours tomorrow and a computer!

mark wallace us meetup tour

Mark and Crew setting up for tomorrow!

Register now

Join us for the live Ustream version of this event. This is an ONLINE event that will stream live from our Phoenix studio on Ustream.tv at 1:00pm PST Saturday, February 6, 2010!

http://www.ustream.tv/channel/mark-wallace-us-meetup-tour-sponsored-by-pocketwizard

Register here to get e-mail updates about the show and additional goodies once the show begins. The event is FREE. All you have to do is tune in!

Mark Wallace is bringing wireless triggering to you in a free 8 city tour and PocketWizard is sponsoring it! PocketWizard is so confident in their latest updates and firmware releases, they are offering a 30-day satisfaction guarantee on new purchases*. On top of that, they are touring the USA with Mark to show you what they mean, live and in-person.

Mark will demonstrate the basic elements of light, show you some TTL tricks, and show you how to apply those techniques to off-camera flash. Learn about sync speed, high speed sync, how to get consistent lighting effects, all about light modifiers and more!

Watch Live:
http://www.ustream.tv/channel/mark-wallace-us-meetup-tour-sponsored-by-pocketwizard

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MWTOUR: Mark adds a day at Fotocare in NYC 12/7 – RSVP!

Mark Wallace Meetup at Fotocare 12/7

Mark Wallace is bringing wireless triggering to FotoCare, Monday December 7th and PocketWizard is sponsoring the event! See and use the new PocketWizard MiniTT1 and FlexTT5.

Mark will be sharing lighting styles and demonstrating how you can use the Mini and Flex’s Features for the best creative results. Bring your camera and lots of memory, because we are going to have open studio time with a model and our own flash gear.

Bring your FlexTT5s and you’ll get a FREE AC5 Soft Shield for each one on the spot! Have questions? An on-site PocketWizard technician can help you find answers. Also bring some enthusiasm and creativity because this is going to be fun!

There will be face-to-face time with a representative from PocketWizard for open Q&A. We’re here to help and ready to field your questions. Simply, we’re dedicated to your success and ready to help.

Two sessions to choose from – sign up now – space is limited!

RSVP: 1:30 – 4:30 || 4:30 – 7:30pm

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Mark Wallace Takes Miami

Mark Wallace recently made the Miami stop on his Mark Wallace US Meetup Tour. Held at MAPS Studios, Mark put a wide variety of PocketWizard and related gear through its paces.

Mark posted this on his blog after leaving town, and put together the following clip of highlights from his time in Miami.

Looks like a good and educational time was had by all!

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Git along lil’ doggies! Mark Wallace packs up for the #MWTOUR

Get a preview on all the gear Mark is bringing on the tour. And, tips on packing for air travel and making that 50 lb. limit :)

Remember – tonight you Miami photogs can hang with Mark for coffee. There’s still a few seats left – register today!

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MWTOUR: New video, Vote for Your City, Nikon Shooters Welcome

Here is a new video that adeptly explains what to expect on the Mark Wallace US Meetup Tour #mwtour

Aaaaaannd… Mark is welcoming ALL shooters with open arms – including Nikon shooters. It’s a hands-on learning event:

The Miami event is this week! There are some seats left – sign up now. Finally, if Mark isn’t coming to your area, why not vote for it! The city/town with the most votes on Dec. 25th wins!

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MWTOUR Miami Details

mwtourmiamiThe location for the Miami Mark Wallace Meetup is announced!

http://mwtour-miami.eventbrite.com/

The Meetup on November 14 is FREE and open to the first 100 people to register. And, err, 25 people have beat you to it!

The Meetup will be held at Mobile Arts Production Services (MAPS) in Studio A. Website

Register now!

Check out the buzz on Twitter

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