LaRoque Challenge - Followup

Tomorrow's post today - how innovative. Actually I have to do real work tomorrow so… I wanted to get started on a series of brief posts that are a follow up to my original "Who's your daddy now" post of Monday night. First couple of things I will post are to get some of the question's via twitter, emails, etc people have asked me out of the way - namely some interest in the tech details, some behind the scenes, some prep work I did (because I am a control freak - or at least I like the illusion of control = helps me just do it vs over=thinking it). So this post is just pure techno-stuff.

First up is the prep - mostly because that's what led to some of my techy type decisions when I shot. I went to the Walmart and grabbed a few yards of blue fabric along with yellow and red (red's for something else). I matched the blue by memory as best as I could since I really didn't want to walk around the Walmart with a shiny blue women's jacket matching fabric in red-necks-ville MD. Hey it's my neurosis leave me alone.

Two days before I was shooting I then did stupid pet tricks to see how the fabric looked and what the visual characteristics were looking at two things specifically. First was how the fabric looked when moving at what particular shutter speeds. Based on the weight of it and the density of air and what you plan on doing with it there really will only be one or two shutter speed that will give you the look you want. It's not a car that can go 5 mph or 120 mph. Not that variable but… differing fabrics will shoot differently when moving through the air based on how you are moving them. Second was what the trench coat and fabric looked like at various light angles and what I wanted it to look like.

It just so happens that I liked the way it looked best at 1/8th of a second. Damn it - that shutter speed is my nemesis. Honestly I rather work at just about any other shutter speed faster or slower. It's not a pure technical thing by any means but… with how I work and how I shoot and how my internal timing works this happens to be my own personal worst possible case. It's also many worst case shutter speeds for more technical minded folks as well. It's really to slow to freeze ANYTHING and not slow enough to make tiny little movements of the camera like vibrations induced internally or by you render invisible. I stressed a bit and then decided WTF I will do it anyway. Turns out I learned ONE thing I like about 1/8th of a second.

On to the actual shooting. I shot everything with my D600. I shot everything at ISO 100 because I didn't need any higher so my aperture turned out to be f6.3 for the ambient light in the space I was shooting in for all of the window light only shots. Yes half of those shots were just plain old window light. If they were strobe this cannot be done- too too fast no matter what strobes you use. If lit it would have to be continuous - why bother. With that out of the way someone asked if they could see the "100% shots" just for technical detail and I would assume confirmation on how they should look at 1/8th of a second.

Sure - no problem but I have to tell you how I shoot first. Some of these were on a tripod - some were not. They don't look that different believe it or not because… I shoot while people move - none of that hold still stuff for me. I like the gesture better when people are in motion to some degree. I also shoot with my hands on the camera and myself looking through the viewfinder - not a good recipe for clinically sharp results at 1/8th. If that's what you are after mirror-up and remote release or self-timer is the answer. What I try to do is look for gesture and grab it at it's peak when it just starts to slow down and go the other way. I am actually pretty good at it since that's how I shoot all the time. It actually seems to un-nerve some models that are used to shooting with "hold that kinda photogs". I use minor suggestions for directing movement and grab it in transit or at least attempt to.

My ambient lit results range from this at a pixel peeping level (ooc with VSCO Portra 160 applied on import and cropped) at the sharpest of the ones I like there are sharper ones but I hate them, well I just don't like the image as a whole so who cares…

Yep - there is a touch of motion blur here and there. As you can see it varies in even this tiny section of the image. Thats due to different pieces of the subject moving at slightly different rates when I hit the shutter and for slightly different durations. Next is the absolute most blurriest results like this…

Yep that's pretty blurry. First thing to notice is this is hyper magnified if you are opening in a new window to see the actual pixels. It's from a 24 megapixel camera. I would venture to guess you might not even be able to see any blur on the first image with say a 12 megapixel camera. On the second the non-blurry stuff would look sharper but you would still see considerable motion in the blurry parts. The much more important thing is I really like the second one better. Generally speaking I liked the way I shoot people and gesture at 1/8th. Something I learned from this that destroys my preconceived notion of 1/8th of a second from a long long time ago.

I like how it renders partly in motion and partly frozen results of human gesture at "normal" people speed from this distance and the way I tend to shoot. I REALLY REALLY like it. So it turned out not to just be an exercise. In fact the latter category of not so sharp results seem a bit magical - almost surreal in that parts of Anastasia's face are motion blurred and parts are not. Very cool in my book.

Moving on to the flash stuff. Of course the pieces of the image hit by the flash are going to render sharper. Yep still using one 8th but the sharper is due to two factors. The first of course is because the flash duration is really really really short - hence acting like a really fast shutter speed. At least for those parts of the image. The second not so obvious reason is because I reduced the ambient about a stop or so. I shot at f9. I wanted a bit higher ratio. It's actually not that high but it is compared to the crazy low ratio shots you saw first. The reason that accounts for a boost in sharpness is that even though all the stuff is still moving it accounts for even less of the actual exposure at a higher ratio where the flash strikes.

Hence my results with the mixed flash and ambient range from nutty freaking sharp like this even with some ghosting…

to about this in terms of blurriness…

Again these are pulled out of my 20 or so favorites instead of doing an exercise of finding my absolute sharpest that I don't actually like the whole image - what's the point? The difference is with the mixed strobe/ambient images I like the ones that have minimal ghosting about as much as the ones with maximum. They all work pretty well. In other words it's less of a deciding factor for me than the all ambient images where I liked the ones that had a magical but very very interesting mix of partially frozen with not at all frozen because it was a much bigger factor in the overall image.

One other tidbit is that I did use rear sync. If I didn't I can tell you now that the mixed light images with maximum ghosting would be unacceptable to me - the ones with minimum would probably look about the same.

Next up will be some behind the scenes stuff that a few of you were interested in shot with my X100. Mostly just fun stuff that I will throw in some commentary regarding what I was doing shooting in the first place besides foolin' around with fabric and trying to make good on my LaRoque Monday promise.


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