Off Camera Flash at December Meeting

Lisa Snider

The Calvert Photography Club met on Saturday, December 15, 2012, for its second meeting in our new home at Trinity United Methodist Church, located at 90 Church Street, in Prince Frederick.

President Guy Stephens opened the meeting by welcoming our club members and prospective new members to the large meeting room of the church basement, which we will meet in whenever possible. If the large room is not available, we may be found for our monthly meeting down the hall, in the smaller room. 

First up was guest speaker Chris Sweeney of State Farm Insurance. Guy invited her to speak about “Personal Articles Insurance,” which can be obtained to cover expensive photography equipment, as well as jewelry, artwork, computers and more. This coverage is broader than a rider on your homeowners’ policy, and provides replacement value coverage of these expensive items, with no deductible. Each item that you would like to be covered is scheduled – individually listed in the policy, including serial numbers, where available. State Farm rates for this type of coverage are $2.05 per hundred for photography equipment and other electronics used in your professional life, and $1.20 per hundred for items used in your personal life.
Chris left business cards for anyone who wanted to contact her with additional questions, or who might be interested in discussing purchasing a policy.

Our partnership with the Calvert Library was kicked off recently when Vice President Jeff Smallwood hosted a “Photography Basics” class. The class, offered for free, was well attended and the feedback afterward was positive. In fact, several of our visiting guests were in attendance at the free class. The next class will be held in February, with Guy discussing mobile phone photography. Those who are interested in attending the February class should contact the Calvert Library to sign up.

In other partnership news, the Solomon’s Island Winter Exhibit will be put up at the end of December. The selection process will take place in the coming week, and the winners will be announced shortly.

The CPC recently held its annual elections, and a record number of 40 people voted. Before announcing the new board, Guy took a moment to have all current board members stand and be recognized, individually, for their contributions to the club this past year. Sandy Carr, who was instrumental in forming the club nearly 3 years ago (in January), was also recognized, and gifted with a CPC mug. Megan then recognized Guy, our President, for his immense contributions to the club this past year, without which the club would not have realized such success.

The new board begins its tenure on January 1, 2013, and here are the winners: Jeff Smallwood will serve as President, Megan Snider as Vice President, Lisa Snider as Secretary, and Bonnie Bryant will serve as Treasurer. As the immediate Past President, Guy will continue to be very involved in club activities and decision making. Also on the ballot were three questions, all of which were “passed” – increasing the dues slightly, to offset our monthly fee for renting the church meeting room (new dues will be $25.00 per year – individual; $35.00 per year – family; and $15.00 per year – student); eliminating the term limits in the by-laws for the President and Vice President positions; and realigning the club year and payment of dues, from March to January of each year.

Guy also announced his personal photo teaching project, which is in the works – he is hoping to partner with CSM and/or the Calvert County Parks and Recreation, to begin teaching a long-form beginner’s photography class. A class with CSM would probably last from 6 to 12 weeks, and while the initial topic would be general, future classes could include special topics. He will keep the club apprised of the progress made on this, in case anyone is interested in attending.

The annual member survey was recently sent to all members on the e-mail list, and for those who have not yet filled it out, everyone is encouraged to do so. The results of the survey are used by the Board in January, to generate trip ideas and tweek the direction of the club in the coming year. The club has grown in size tremendously in the past year, so ideas and volunteers to help are always welcome. In fact, as Karl Barth and Ursula Lawrence have expressed an interest in volunteering their time with the club (thank you for agreeing to run for our board), they will be asked to help in other ways in the 2013 year. Would you be willing to help out? Let us know on the survey.

Next up was the Treasurer’s report by Bonnie Bryant. There were no disbursements in the past month, and the club currently has 66 paid members. The current balance in the club’s account is $502.38. As the members have voted to change the club year from March to January, club dues for 2013 will come due in January. Bonnie also maintains the monthly sign-in sheet (please check off your name, or add it to the list), and the monthly refreshments list. We need volunteers for the refreshments beginning with the January meeting. Bonnie can supply the paper products and if you volunteer, she will send out a reminder to you. 

We closed out the business portion of our meeting with Spencer providing an update on our lending Library. Spencer advised that there are many books available for loan. Be sure to login to the members’ only section of the web site to view the titles, which are available for loan for a period of 2 months. Remember, too, that both Peach Pit and O’Reilly Presses offer free books to our club members, for only the price of writing a review of the book for our club’s blog.

The next segment of the meeting featured 4 images submitted by our club members depicting this month’s shooting assignment, “Feast.” Each image was allotted 4 minutes for the critique session, and members Jeff and Char offered their thoughtful review of each image. Other club members were then invited to volunteer their thoughts and ideas on the photos submitted.

This month’s member slideshow was presented by Lin Moos, and featured the fall majesty of the Delaware Water Gap. Her pictures were beautiful, full of fall foliage and vibrant color, set to inspiring music. We thank Lin for her wonderful slideshow. Members are encouraged to sign up to present a slideshow of their own, which is a great way to share the photography you love. Presenters have signed up for January and February, but slots are open for the remainder of the year.

Guy talks Off Camera FlashAfter a 10-minute break, today’s program was presented by President Guy Stephens, and was entitled “Off Camera Flash.” Guy began his presentation with his take on lighting – he likes to think of it as the currency of photography. There are many different types of lighting – natural light, studio strobes, LED lights, continuous lights, and small flash/strobes. We use a flash indoors for various reasons, including to improve low light, to be creative, and to add light. The flash “built in” to many of our cameras is used because it is handy, and easy to use in a pinch. The only problem is that the light is generally harsh, and unflattering. Diffusers may be added over top of your flash to soften the light, and many flashes can also be adjusted to reduce the output of the flash. Other methods of softening the light to improve the quality of your pictures include adjusting the exposure, turning on a table or floor lamp, or moving the subject of the photo into better light.   

Small flashes or strobes may be used for your lighting needs as they provide more power, they are portable and versatile, and they are a dedicated source of light which can be used off camera. Large, removeable flashes may be attached to the camera, and bounced off of a white ceiling, in order to make the light source larger, and softer. A diffuser dome may also be added to these large flashes to soften the light even more. Other light modifiers, such as an 80/20 or Lightsphere, may be purchased and also used. So – tip #1 is the bigger the light source, the softer the light.

Tip #2 for creating flattering pictures using flash is to take the flash off of the camera. You may do this by attaching a sync cable to the flash, or by using a wireless unit, such as a pocket wizard. For those interested in taking portraits, an inexpensive studio can be purchased featuring light stands, an umbrella, and a softbox. An umbrella is used to scatter the light, to make it softer, and a softbox is used to not only diffuse the light, but make it more focused. Guy brought in his studio equipment, and demonstrated the various ways it could be used to take flattering portraits, using club members as subjects. He also demonstrated the use of a large, round reflector, and the effects the various colors provide.

Off camera flashKeep in mind that the camera’s metering setting also affects the light output (TTL – through the lens metering, where the camera and flash work together to determine the output, vs. manual settings). It is worthwhile to have a good understanding of both of these settings, for optimum lighting choices.

In closing, Guy’s final 2 tips for achieving good lighting are #3 - control the ambient light by adjusting your shutter speed, and #4 – experiment and be creative but most of all, have fun! Guy’s program, complete with demonstrations, was fun and very informative.

Upcoming events were presented next by Robbin. Our next field trip is set for Saturday, January 5, 2013 to the U.S. Botanic Gardens (the recent site of the “marriage proposal” by club member Spencer Johnson to fellow club member Megan Snider -Congratulations!) Watch for future e-mails with all of the details. Club members should note that no tripods are allowed at this location, but great photos can be taken hand-held. Our next photo assignment is “flash,” in keeping with today’s presentation, and our next regular club meeting will be held on Saturday, January 19, 2013. Finally, volunteers are needed to arrive for our next regular club meeting early, about 9:15, to help set up the tables and chairs in our meeting room. If you are able to arrive early and help out with this endeavor, it would be very much appreciated. With so many members now, the work has increased, but can be made considerably lighter with more hands! (Help is also appreciated at the close of the meeting, for breaking down the same).

In the spirit of the season of giving, Guy concluded the meeting by holding a raffle, giving away 6 photography-related prizes. Thanks, Guy, for leading the club through a very successful year. Your contributions are too many to name, but will certainly never be forgotten. We look forward to your continued involvement with the Board in 2013!   

December is probably the most photographed month of the year – enjoy every minute of it!

Book Review: Aperture 3 Organize, Perfect, and Showcase Your Photos

Lin Moos

Aperture 3 Organize, Perfect, and Showcase Your Photos
Author:  Dion Scoppettuolo
Published by:  Peachpit Press

Every once in a while you have one of those little “ah haa” moments and there it is,  a new “life lesson.”  My recent life lesson was to “not judge a book by its cover.”  We’ve all heard that a few times, haven’t we.  Really—-the title/cover of the book isn’t sufficient, read the book description before you leap into a commitment to do a book review!

Aperture 3 BookI was looking for a way to ease into using Aperture from iPhoto.  All of the club presentations had convinced me that it was time.  Of course, Aperture doesn’t come with even a basic paper manual so I wanted a hard cover reference manual that I could use to guide me on the basics of the program and allow me to advance my skills over time.  “Organize, Perfect, and Showcase Your Photos” sounded just like the ticket.

When I obtained the book, it included a DVD with media and lesson files included. The “Getting Started” preface to the book described the Apple Pro Training Series.  Opps, more that I had planned to sign on for.  The book is set up with 13 lessons.  Most of the lessons take 90 to 120 minutes to complete.  The total time estimated to work through the lessons is nearly 20 hours.  The lessons are set up sequentially with the first 5 lessons dedicated to creating and organizing your photo library, the next 5 teach corrective and creative image editing, and the last 3 cover sharing your work.  The disk includes images that you manipulate through each lesson in organizing, editing, and sharing.  You must go through each lesson step-by-step manipulating the files before you can advance to the next lesson.

The first problem I encountered was incomplete files for lessons one and two.  The book guided you through steps with images that didn’t exist in the DVD which accompanied the book.  With Guy’s assistance, I found the “corrected files” on line and downloaded those.  Things moved more smoothly then but it is a laborious process.  If you don’t follow the lessons exactly your images will not match up for the next lesson.

This book is for you if you want a thorough understanding of Aperture and all of its functions.  The step-by-step lessons show keyboard short cuts to expedite establishing your library and editing, and demonstrate how to optimize use of the software.  It is comprehensive to the tune of 481 pages.  You are going to need large chunks of dedicated time to complete each lesson and you cannot jump over some lessons to move to the editing functions.  You can obtain Apple Pro certification after completion of the lessons.

If you are looking for a reference book to assist you in specific aspects of Aperture—-something you can pick up and find a specific topic for assistance, you will be better off with a different book.  I have found Aperture 3, Portable Genius to be helpful in addressing some basic questions.

Extend your photo editing options

Karl Barth

In the November club meeting the topic/presentation was on software plug-ins.  Software plug-ins can be used with Aperture, Lightroom, or Photoshop.  They offer ways to enhance your photos and make them look great.  Club President Guy Stephens along with club member T.O. Galloway gave a great presentation on the various software plug-ins available and how effective they can be.

Photo by Karl BarthPrior to the meeting, I never used any software plug-ins in my post processing.  I only used Lightroom 4 and I felt it did a pretty good job.  I read about them and had seen other photographers use them but I never tried them out.  After the meeting, I decided to download some of these plug-ins and try them out. 

I started off by downloading Perfect Effects 4 from OnOne.  It was a free download from their site and the software was very easy to install.  I went through the setup wizard and when I opened Lightroom the software was there for me.  For a free program I was impressed with the filters that were available.  There were 70 filters to choose from.

I also decided to download a free trial of Nik Software’s Color Efex Pro.  I was immediately impressed with the software.  I can see why it was so popular.  I was able to manipulate some of my good photos into great photos.  I was also able to get more creative with some of photos and manipulate them to look like paintings.

Photo by Karl BarthLike OnOne Pefect Effects, the Nik trial software was easy to download and install.  When I opened Lightroom, the plug-in was already installed and ready for me to use.  The bad part about using the trial software is that you get the annoying splash screen reminding you how many days you have left for the trial.  It pops up every time you launch the software.

I ended up getting an early Christmas present and got the Nik Software Complete Collection.  It came with Dfine 2.0, Viveza 2, HDR Efex Pro 2, Silver Efex 2, Color Efex 2, and Sharpener Pro 3.0.  I’ve already used all of these programs in some fashion in processing my pictures.  I absolutely love the software.  I’m thankful Guy and T.O. did the presentation.  Otherwise I may never have gotten the software.

Holiday fun at Flat Iron Farm

Lisa Snider

On Saturday, December 1, 2012, the Calvert Photography Club met up at Flat Iron Farm, located at 45840 Highway to Heaven Lane in Great Mills, Maryland, to photograph and enjoy owner Bubby Knott’s annual Christmas displays. For 18 years, he has been extending his hospitality to the community, by opening his farm and inviting them to visit, free of charge, and see the holiday magic he creates. Our club was permitted to visit an hour prior to dark to take photos of his magnificent light displays before and at sunset, which provided some wonderful opportunities to shoot.

Photo by Lisa SniderAfter dark, Bubby’s light displays are synchronized to holiday music, which were magical to see and shoot. Club members who brought children and/or grandchildren had the opportunity to take the kids to the petting zoo, for pony rides, and for a special visit with Santa. Our adult club members enjoyed the whimsy of the Candy Cane House, the old antique store featuring a large collection of John Deere items, and the other Christmas country stores, which offered seasonal crafts, decorations, toys, candies, jellies and jams for sale. When we weren’t photographing the Christmas touches which adorned every inch of the farm, we were socializing or browsing in the festive shops. There was so much to see and do. 

Photo by Lisa SniderThe animals on the farm were also a treat to see, up close and personal, and the painted manger scene on the back wall of the horse barn was not to be missed. We finished out the evening by sitting around an open fire, toasting marshmallows and making S’mores with the gift packets of ingredients which Robbin generously supplied. What a lovely evening, and the perfect way to kick off the holiday season!

Club members who attended the trip are invited to submit some photos directly to Bubby Knott, for his website, as a special thank you for his hospitality in hosting the club visit. When submitting photos, be sure and identify yourself as part of the Calvert Photography Club.