Sunday, December 28, 2014

Santa was good to me

I've been needing to upgrade a few bits of gear moving into the new year, so I appealed to Santa and was rewarded with a new iMac and five boxes of Paul C Buff lighting stuff.

Here's me sitting in my (messy) office illuminated by a 22 inch beauty dish fitted with a 15 degree grid mounted on an Einstein 640 strobe. The grid does a fine job of tightly controlling the beam spread.

I did little retouching to this image, I just used a red filter in the black and white conversion (Nik Silver Efex Pro).

Grim? Who's grim?

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Downgrade for a better phone!

I bought an Android smartphone in the spring when my ancient dumb phone finally expired. (The battery physically expanded until the back cover couldn't be attached, and it held less than a day's charge.) But as usual I went the cheapest possible route: a pay-as-you-go top-up "plan" with an out-of-date almost free phone.

As an Android newbie I gleefully configured my new to me (but actually rather old) Huawei Y215 with everything I could think of. I frequently updated all the apps, both pre-installed and some I downloaded. I learned that when you get the "insufficient memory" message it was time to clear all the app caches. I was a wizard.

But the phone slowed down. I frequently had to wait for it to come out of an apparent coma when I tried to launch apps. Eventually even simply turning it on was a chore and it would very often ignore my frantic stabs at the screen. I had to reboot it daily (or more) and it recently started crashing randomly -- even while sleeping in my pocket -- or producing the weirdest garbled UI screens you can imagine.

I started to think that perhaps I should contact somebody about a warranty exchange or hardware repair or something (do these cheapies even have warranties?). But then I remembered that it's always a good idea to try a factory reset first. So I Googled it and found out you can do a neat trick with the volume up and power buttons after pulling the battery, so I tried it.

Amazeballs! All kinds of memory freed up, messaging has returned to the Facebook app, everything runs faster again, and so far -- touch imitation wood grain vinyl -- it hasn't crashed or bluescreened. Too good to be true, but I'll take it.

Lesson learned: under no circumstances am I to update any apps. I have disabled all the updates and notifications. I will only install the bare minimum of extra, non-builtin, apps. So far just Instagram since Gmail, Twitter and Facebook are all standard -- though obsolete -- pre-installed apps.

So there you go folks: one of the very few occasions where a complete and utter downgrade has netted me a vastly improved user experience. I hope that this thing gives me a few more years of reasonable service before succumbing to the "Sorry, you need a new widget to play" doom.

Wednesday, October 01, 2014

Advice for aspiring photographers

35 Magnum Photographers Give Their Advice to Aspiring Photographers

Eric Kim took a Magnum blog post (with permission) and illustrated with each photographers' work.

"Be yourself" is often suggested, along with the need for good shoes. There's a strong PJ slant, imho, but it's a good thought-provoking read.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Sunday, June 08, 2014

Above The Fold

Newspaper Dresses
Newspaper Dresses Newspaper Dresses Newspaper Dresses Newspaper Dresses Newspaper Dresses Newspaper Dresses Newspaper Dresses

Newspaper dresses by Layla Azer

Designer: Layla Azer
Model: Samantha Liana
Model: Krista Adler
Makeup: Chantelle Krupka
Hair: Nadia Amir
Photo, retouch: Bruce Walker



I had a lovely test shoot with local Toronto emerging actor Patri Erdei on Thursday morning. So far Patri has had a number of background appearances in TV and film, but has no portfolio to speak of yet. She had also never shot in a studio before yesterday.

I shot several different lighting styles from ambient window through contrasty spotlight over three and a half hours. This portrait caught my eye while reviewing the days catch.

Neewer TT560 in Westcott Apollo 28" softbox C-L front; TT560 in Apollo Strip with 40 degree grid C-R behind, Pentax AF540FGZ with 1/8" Honl Speedgrid aimed at black background C-R. Silver reflector C-R.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014


Origami by Bruce M Walker
Origami, a photo by Bruce M Walker on Flickr.
Gavin Canning of FoldIT Creations with one of his earrings that he hand-makes from folded fine Japanese paper, at Artisans of the Metropolis.

Sunday, March 09, 2014

Basic Television Principles and Servicing

This posting is a day too late to celebrate International Women's Day
as I'd intended, but it's the thought that counts, anyway. So here's a

This is one of many great left-over shots from my 2012 studio shoot
that produced the images for my series Postmodern Pinups. I'm going
through my Lr back catalog for stuff I missed and this one popped up.

I had dragged a crate of props along to the shoot, including this book
with a very colourful cover: Basic Television Principles and
Servicing, Fourth Edition, Bernard Grob, (c) 1975. It's from one of my
college courses, and I have no idea why I'm hanging onto it.

I handed it to Dee, the model, and instructed her to pretend to read
it. So she opened it up and immediately began to read aloud to us from
the chapter on Deflection Oscillators. She managed to make the
material sound quite spicy and made it very hard for us to concentrate
on shooting. I think it was the sub-section on Synchronizing the
Multivibrators that did us in.

Model/HS: Dee Steller
MUA/Wardrobe: Chantelle Krupka
Artistic Director/photo/retouch: Bruce Walker

Pentax K20D, DA* 50-135/2.8 @ f/10, 50mm, 1/160th sec, ISO 100
Two Bowens 400 W-S strobes in 3x4 softboxes; Two bare 400 W-S Bowens
strobes on backdrop.
Lr + Ps

Happy Day After International Women's Day!

Sunday, February 09, 2014

Effective Rim Lighting on a Budget

Outlining (is) the requirement

So recently I got it in mind to do some figure work, against a completely black background. But I also decided to create more shape definition by outlining my model with light. I had been studying Maxim-style glamour shots lately and love the kind of 3D look that they achieve.

I learned that glamour photographers will often use a couple of strip banks, usually gridded, on the left and right of the subject to get that desirable rim light. Unfortunately I also discovered that gridded strip banks are not cheap, even eBay knock-offs. If my budget had allowed, I would have bought a couple of Westcott Apollo strip banks -- they're very nice.

Inexpensive rim light

So I thought about what I could do to get the cost down and still achieve the look I wanted.

Well first of all, I needed a couple of extra light sources. Since I still needed to front-light my subject, that meant I would need a total of three flashes in my setup. I have two very good ones (full-featured Pentax AF540FGZ pTTL flashes) so I just needed one or two simple, dumb flashes.

There are a few decent choices available right now, but the one that seems to be at the sweet spot for capabilities and price is the Neewer TT560. It tilts 90 degrees, swivels 360 degrees, its power adjusts over an 8 stop range, it supports optical slave modes, and best of all it's less than $50. The biggest negative compared to the more expensive and popular Yongnuo's is it has no zoom capability. But I'd be using it as a wide angle source, either inside softboxes and umbrellas, or else bare as my rim light source.

I ordered two from Amazon and received them a few days later.

Getting it in shape

Now I needed to shape this light. One requirement in rim lighting is to get it onto the subject while avoiding getting it onto the background (which I want to keep black) or allowing it to flare into the camera's lens. That's why a gridded strip bank is a good choice: the light is contained and focussed within a narrow side-to-side angle, like 40 degrees, yet applied evenly over the vertical reach of the subject.

But there's another way to do this, and we borrow it from stage lighting: Barn Doors. These are generally steel plates painted flat black which can be adjusted on four sides of a light to contain the output inside a box shape. It's a bit like an adjustable square snoot.

You can purchase fabric snoots from a couple of vendors, eg the Honl line, and I have one, but a snoot contains the light into a small circular shape while I wanted to make it a vertical stripe.

Nobody seems to have barn doors for hotshoe flashes, so I figured that I would go the DIY route and create them from scratch.

Barn doors for a buck

One dollar? Yup: a hunk of black foam core from the nearby dollar store. I was able to cut all four of my barn doors (two for each flash) from one 20"x30" piece.

They are basically eight inches square with a little two-and-a-half by two inch mounting flag or ear on one side. Here are the measurements I used ...

I just used a box cutter and a steel rule to guide my cuts. I did the cutting on a self-healing plastic mat from the artist's supply.

The doors are attached in pairs directly to the flash heads using a couple of rubber bands around the mounting ears and then the flashes themselves are aimed using an umbrella swivel mount on top of the light stands ...

It's a wrap

So how did I do? Very well indeed! I got just the look I was after.

Eugenya, my art/life model, held a pose while I adjusted the direction of the two rim lights to just graze her body from about 30 degrees behind on either side. My main light was a third flash inside a Westcott 28" Apollo with 40 degree grid that I boomed above and in front of her, just feathering the light to give her enough illumination and shape definition.

To look at the setup another way: imagine my subject is in the middle of an analog clock. The black backdrop (which are IKEA curtains on my DIY hanger) is at 12 o'clock, and the camera is at 6 o'clock. The main light is at about 5 o'clock, and the two rim lights are at 2 and 10 o'clock.

She also held a long piece of flexible aluminum duct that we wound around her and which caught and reflected the light, contrasting cool metal with warm skin tones.

Here's one of the better images I got from that shoot ...

Nude standing with Aluminum Flex Duct FX0452 

You can see more images in my Spiral Bound set on Flickr, though not if you don't have a Flickr account. You can also find them in my Tumblr feed; scroll down a bit.

Thursday, February 06, 2014

Neewer TT560 flash, my review on Amazon

I wrote a short review of the Neewer TT560 flash on Amazon. I bought two of these inexpensive flashes shortly before Christmas and I made good use of them during my most recent studio shoot, primarily for hard rim-light on my subject and prop.

Read the full review here ...

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Alt.Portraits of Madame X

Alt.Portraits of Madame X 1Alt.Portraits of Madame X 2Alt.Portraits of Madame X 3Alt.Portraits of Madame X 4Alt.Portraits of Madame X 5Alt.Portraits of Madame X 6
Alt.Portraits of Madame X 7Alt.Portraits of Madame X 9

Alt.Portraits of Madame X, a set on Flickr.
My creative photography projects got off to a bang in 2014! The first for the new year is inspired by John Singer Sargent's 1884 oil painting, Portrait of Madame X. 2014 is the 130th anniversary of the original.

This project includes 12 images. If you can only see 8 at Flickr, then you need to set your safety level. If you aren't a Flickr user, then you can see the project in its entirety here instead.

Model/makeup/hair: Eugenya MM# 1364518
Photo/retouch: Bruce Walker MM# 1440574
Special thanks to Gabrielle at The Trap Door for loaning me a key prop.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Spiral Bound

Spiral Bound by Bruce M Walker
Spiral Bound, a photo by Bruce M Walker on Flickr.
From my first creative shoot for 2014. With art model Eugenya.

Plenty of DIY gear employed in this themed series: my IKEA hack backdrop support with $30 IKEA black curtains; foam-core barn-doors employed with Neewer $50 flashes for rim-light.

More shots (NSFW) on my Tumblr:

Saturday, January 04, 2014

Icy bokeh

Icy bokeh by Bruce M Walker
Icy bokeh, a photo by Bruce M Walker on Flickr.

Another shot from #icestorm2013 -- taken the day after when the sun was shining down on a tree in my backyard and making it explode with brilliant points of light.